02/09/2013 5:38PM

Gulfstream Park: Fort Loudon handles pressure in Gulfstream Sprint Championship

Elizabeth Macy
Fort Loudon, cutting back from 1 1/8 miles, scores under Jose Lezcano in the seven-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Fort Loudon survived a race-long pace battle to emerge a game half-length winner over Swagger Jack in Saturday’s $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship.

Fort Loudon, who set the pace before tiring to finish third in the 1 1/8-mile Sunshine Millions Classic three weeks ago, broke alertly under jockey Jose Lezcano to contest the pace while racing inside the 2-1 choice Bahamian Squall and Big Grandpa. Fort Loudon finally grabbed a short advantage from the favorite in late stretch and then withstood a final surge from Swagger Jack to post his first victory since defeating the 2012 Sprint Champion Trinniberg in Calder’s Grade 3 Carry Back seven months ago.

Fort Loudon, a 4-year-old homebred son of Awesome of Course owned by Fred Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm, completed seven furlongs in 1:21.84 and returned $9.60.

“The owner breeds good horses and I give him a lot of credit,” said trainer Nick Zito. “I give Stanley [Gold] a lot of credit too for developing the horse.  I’m happy. My people did a good job with him. I’m glad Fred left him with us and what can you say, to win a race like this on Donn day, it’s great.”

Zito said he wasn’t surprised to see Fort Loudon on the lead.

“I told Jose you’ve got to get him out of there and out of trouble and man he got out of there good,” said Zito. “Once he did, I said this is pretty good, at least he’s out of trouble. Coming off a longer race really helped, as you can see he dug in and had a lot left.”              

Zito said Fort Loudon would likely make his next start in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap at a mile on March 9.