03/31/2012 4:07PM

Gulfstream: Fort Larned sets track record winning Skip Away

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Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Larned, ridden by Julien Leparoux, wins the Skip Away in track-record time of 1:53.92 for 1 3/16 miles.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -   Fort Larned, who has shown steady improvement since getting to Florida this winter, became a track record holder as well as a graded stakes winner for the first time after registering an impressive 2 1/2 -length victory over Alma d’Oro in Saturday’s $100,000 Skip Away at Gulfstream Park.

Fort Larned made his first two starts of the year at Tampa Bay Downs, finishing fourth against mid-level starter handicap competition before returning to win the Challenger Stakes earlier this month, two performances which set up Fort Larned for the best race of his career in the Grade 3 Skip Away.

Fort Larned ($26.20) broke alertly under jockey Julien Leparoux,  then rated off the early pace of Uptowncharlybrown. Fort Larned moved readily to command midway down the backstretch, edged clear, withstood a bid from Alma d’Oro through early stretch before pulling away at the end. It was another 12 1/2 lengths back to Self Control who finished third. Where’s Sterling, the 3-2 favorite off his troubled fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Donn, was never a factor checking home a well- beaten fourth in a field of eight older handicap runners.

Fort Larned’s final time of 1:53.92 eclipsed the old track standard  for 1 3/16 miles of 1:54.74 set by Eddington seven years ago.

“This is a horse who is really improving,” said Ian Wilkes, who trains Fort Larned for owner-breeder Janis Whitham. “Putting blinkers on him a few starts back helped and he just seems to have gotten better and better since turning four. I don’t imagine they run many races at this distance but it’s nice to have our name in the record books.”

Wilkes said he has nothing picked out at the moment for Fort Larned’s next start.