01/18/2013 4:19PM

Gulfstream: Fort Larned gets back to work at Palm Meadows

Susie Raisher
The Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 9 at one mile is the intended comeback race for Fort Larned.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – After an easy couple of months since his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, Fort Larned got back to serious work on Friday morning at the Palm Meadows training center here, and if his first drill of 2013 is any indication, he is coming back just as good as he left in 2012.

Fort Larned breezed an easy half-mile in 48.40 seconds, without being asked at all, then impressed further with his gallop-out. According to head clocker Bryan Walls, Fort Larned went out five furlongs in 1:00.80, and continued out six furlongs in 1:14.

Trainer Ian Wilkes, watching adjacent to the clocker’s stand, muttered “too fast” under his breath as the work commenced at the half-mile pole, but he was happy with the way Fort Larned came through the lane and willingly continued his gallop-out.

“You’re always a little skeptical, when you give a horse time off, that they’ll come back the same way, but I was very pleased,” Wilkes said. “He went very easy, well in hand.”

Wilkes said he has circled the Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 9 at one mile as the intended comeback race for Fort Larned. He marveled at how far Fort Larned has come in the past 12 months.

“Last year at this time, he wasn’t a stakes winner yet,” Wilkes said.

But by the end of 2012, Fort Larned was a two-time Grade 1 winner, and he also was a finalist for the Eclipse Award as champion older male, which was to be announced on Saturday night.

Wilkes impressed with maiden winner

Wilkes looks to have a late-developing 3-year-old in Fiddler Blue, a son of Bluegrass Cat who ran down the heavily touted Abraham to narrowly win a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream Park on Thursday.

Fiddler Blue made up 2 1/2 lengths on Abraham, the 1-2 favorite, in the final furlong, but was stretched to the limit when Abraham, trained by Todd Pletcher, tried to re-rally.

“To run one of Todd’s down like that was impressive,” Wilkes said. “That horse of Todd’s looked like he waited for my horse, but my horse went and got him, and then Todd’s horse went on, so it was a nice effort.”

Fiddler Blue had finished fourth in his only prior start, going six furlongs at Churchill Downs on Nov. 7.

Wilkes, channeling mentor Carl Nafzger, said he was inclined to look for an allowance race next, rather than rush into a stakes race.

“We’ll have to look at what’s around,” he said.