12/26/2012 5:26PM

Gulfstream Park: Fort Loudon will get another chance around two turns in Sunshine Millions Classic

Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Loudon, primarily a sprinter, will attempt 1 1/8 miles in the Jan. 19 Sunshine Millions Classic.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Nick Zito is never one to shy away from a challenge. If he did, he wouldn’t have won either the 2004 Belmont Stakes with Birdstone or the 2008 Belmont with Da’ Tara.

Zito is already mapping out plans for his first major challenge of the 2013 Gulfstream meet, the 1 1/8-mile Florida Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 19. Zito will stretch out his Grade 1-placed Fort Loudon around two turns for the first time since the Florida Derby to meet a field that is expected to include the Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Mucho Macho Man and the multiple Grade 1 winner Ron the Greek.

Fort Loudon won Calder’s 1 1/16-mile In Reality Stakes to complete his sweep of the 2010 Florida Stallion Series. He ran in all three major Triple Crown preps here last winter when with trainer Stanley Gold, finishing fourth in the one-mile Holy Bull, fifth in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, and sixth after a wide trip in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby.

Fort Loudon, who is owned by his breeder Fred Brei, has been strictly a one-turn horse ever since, his most notable performances a game decision over eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Trinniberg in Calder’s six-furlong, Grade 3 Carry Back and second-place finish behind Willy Beamin in the seven-furlong, Grade 1 King’s Bishop this past summer at Saratoga.

“I discussed the situation with Fred and we decided Fort Loudon was at the point in his career where we needed to find out if he can go long against quality competition or if we need to keep him strictly sprinting this season,” said Zito, who has had Fort Loudon in his barn since the Carry Back. “I know we’re going to be taking on some pretty tough competition in Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek but that has never stopped me before. We’re never one to back down from a challenge.”