03/11/2013 12:17PM

Gulfstream Park: Fort Larned not giving Wilkes cause for alarm

Eleanor Gustafson
Fort Larned, riderless since he stumbled as the starting gate opened, is ahead of the field in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Ian Wilkes summed up Saturday’s shocking turn of events, when Fort Larned stumbled badly leaving the gate and lost jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. immediately after the start of the start of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, in just eight words.

“I think we may have dodged a bullet,” Wilkes said Monday morning after reporting that all seemed well with Fort Larned in the aftermath of what could have been a disastrous situation for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.

Despite stumbling so badly he hit his head on the ground, Fort Larned escaped the incident with little more than a cut on his heel, Wilkes said, and could return to training later this week.

“Everything is good so far, knock on wood,” Wilkes said Monday. “I just walked him again today, because he still has a cut on the foot where he grabbed himself. It’s superficial, but it’s still a cut and I don’t want to get that infected. Our regular routine would have been to jog him the day after the race and then walk two days, which means he’d go back to the track on Wednesday. But I may shed row him first, which could hold me up a couple of days.”

Wilkes said he has nothing in mind for Fort Larned’s next start.

“I’ll know more in about a week, after he gets back to the track and I can evaluate him,” said Wilkes. “I don’t want to make a plan today and then have to adjust it. I’ll probably nominate him around to a few things, including the Skip Away here in a couple of weeks, and then decide. It looks like we’re probably going to stay here until the end of the meet, because I still have a couple of horses to run whose races fall on the last few days of the meet.”

One of the biggest topics of conversation at the Palm Meadows clocker’s stand on Sunday morning was guessing how fast the riderless Fort Larned may have actually completed a mile once he recovered from the incident at the break.

According to Trakus data, Fort Larned completed the mile 1:33.89 and finished 8 1/2 lengths in front of the actual winner, Discreet Dancer. At the five-sixteenths pole, Fort Larned was 25 lengths ahead of the field.

Discreet Dancer won the Gulfstream Park Handicap with a final time of 1:35.17.

“I was just glad he didn’t make the gap or anything being loose like that,” Wilkes said. “It was amazing how professional he was even without the rider, running straight as an arrow right through the finish line, then pulling himself up once he was done.”