03/06/2013 5:53PM

Gulfstream Park Handicap looking like battle of the Forts

Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Loudon (right), coming off this victory in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, will try upset Fort Larned in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Fort Larned will be the starting highweight and favorite in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap, but trainer Nick Zito thinks he’s got a pretty good Fort of his own for the one-mile Grade 2 fixture – the multiple graded stakes winner Fort Loudon.

The Gulfstream Park Handicap drew a field of six that also includes the lightly raced but dangerous Discreet Dancer and Swagger Jack, runner-up to Fort Loudon four weeks ago in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship. Gourmet Dinner and perennial longshot Decaf Again, who makes his eighth start of the meet and fifth in the last five weeks, complete the lineup.

Fort Loudon has had his most success at distances ranging from six to seven furlongs, but Zito believes a one-turn mile is well within his wheelhouse. A homebred son of Awesome of Course owned by Fred Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm, Fort Loudon finished second behind Fort Larned’s younger stablemate Neck ‘n Neck last fall in the one-mile Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs. He exits one of the best races of his career, having outgamed Swagger Jack by a half-length after contesting all the pace in the seven-furlong Sprint Championship.

“He’s tough as nails – he’s going to have to be, obviously – and I’m happy with the way he’s training and the way he’s been acting coming into this race,” said Zito. “He usually comes all the time with his run. He’s beaten Trinniberg going three-quarters and his race going seven-eighths in the Sprint Championship was just fantastic. But I think the mile has got to fit him perfect, too. To me he’s up to a mile.”

Zito said Fort Loudon should benefit from the six-pound weight concession he’ll receive from the 124-pound highweight Fort Larned.

“It helps if you’re going down to the wire together, if he happens to be in a head duel like he was last time,” said Zito. “I hope this race is between the two Forts.”

Zito is also looking forward to running Declan’s Warrior in Saturday’s third race, an entry-level optional claiming dash for 3-year-olds going 7 1/2 furlongs on the main track. Declan’s Warrior rallied from far back to win his only 2-year-old start and was a late-running second behind the undefeated Park City despite losing a shoe when making his 3-year-old bow here last month.

“He’s a good horse,” said Zito. “I smile about this horse. Between the layoff and the fact he did lose a shoe, he should be a much better horse this time than in his last race.”

Declan’s Warrior will face five rivals including his stablemate Almost English and recent maiden winner Acclaim, who appears to be the speed of the field.

Frank Wagenbaugh More than 1 year ago
I think Discreet Dancer is being severely underestimated here; he could make some noise in this spot.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
I understand folks want to beat the favorite but there are some races where it is just not possible. Fort Larned walks all over this field. Fort Larned's last four Sheet numbers came back with Breeders Cup first :3,3,1,2. I havent looked at the rest of the fields but none of them have turned in those numbers in their lives, how on Earth do they do it here? Larned can learn how to do long division and still have time to beat these donkeys.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
This will hardly be a battle. Fort Larned is getting paid to breeze.
Gunner More than 1 year ago
So in this weeks edition of Chalk Talk we deal with the "Fort Exacta". Or: "2 will get you 5". That is all,
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
How much has Barry Ro$e bilked the house and the bettors out of with just Decaf Again alone? Can this be in the best interest of Racing? Bare-faced scam...
Dave More than 1 year ago
What's Rose's story? Don't know much about him at all. Just know when I cap GP races, his entrants are always 30-1 or higher and look overmatched on paper.
Kyle Stasierowski More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Welsch, Here's my top 3 in the Gulfstream Park Handicap: 1st: Decaf Again (Barry Rose, Rose Family Stable), 2nd: Fort Larned (Ian Wilkes, Janice Whitham), and 3rd: Fort Loudon (Nick Zito, Jacks or Better Farm) Sincerely, Kyle Stasierowski 28-year-old loyal TVG viewer, HRTV Live Feed viewer, DRF Twitter follower and FaceBook friend from Alden, New York
John More than 1 year ago
Can I take it to the pay off window Kyle ? Saturday at Santa Anita, Flashback to Omega Star "cold exacta" maybeeeee !
John Flynn More than 1 year ago
Fort Larned is SUPERIOR!!!
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Maybe the race is weak...but this is how to prep a horse. Wilkes knows what he's doing....Game on Dude went grade 3,grade 2, before winning Big Cap last week. Smart handling
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
And poor ol' Decaf... Not so smart.
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
Fort Larned with his eyes closed. Sad to have this kind of field for the BC Classic winner. Great way not to make horse racing more popular.
Richard More than 1 year ago
Fort Loudon is a great sprinter. I do not understand running Fort Larned in a one mile race. He should be in a 1 1/8 mile race on dirt as a prep. This is like when Ron The Greek and Mucho Macho Man raced against Fort Loudon. Fort Loudon is a sprinter! He is also an older horse. He is not a two year old or a beginning three year old who are just learning the ropes. I think Fort Loudon could do very good between six and seven furlongs! He is racing against the tide with horses like Fort Larned!