07/01/2012 9:39AM

Prairie Meadows: Fort Larned proves uncatchable in Cornhusker

Coady Photography
Fort Larned, under Brian Hernandez Jr., collects his second Grade 3 win of the season in the Cornhusker Handicap.

ALTOONA, Iowa -- Fort Larned broke on top, established a clear early lead, and was always in command to register a three-length win in Saturday night's Grade 3, $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, the featured event of the Iowa Festival of Racing.

Guided through comfortable early fractions of 24.57 seconds, 48.43, and 1:12.22 by an astute Brian Hernandez Jr., Fort Larned found plenty when given his stretch cue to extend and covered the last three furlongs in a sharp 35.20. The Ian Wilkes-trained Fort Larned  carried 117 pounds while covering the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:47.42.

The 1-2 favorite Successful Dan, reserved under a snug Julien Leparoux hold for the initial six furlongs, raced three wide throughout and finished well to secure second. The 9-year-old Awesome Gem was maneuvered off the rail for clear run entering the stretch and wore down the 2010 Cornhusker champ Shadowbdancing, snatching third by a head, 2 3/4 lengths behind Successful Dan. Shadowbdancing had stalked Fort Larned for seven furlongs but could not match the winner's stretch acceleration.

Chicago-based 23-1 longshot Taptowne never got untracked behind the dawdling pace and ran fifth. The 2011 Cornhusker winner Headache was also compromised and never got out of sixth.

Owned and bred by Kansan Janis R. Whitham, Fort Larned collected $180,000 for the second Grade 3 win of his 4-year-old campaign. He won Gulfstream Park's Grade 3 Skip Away on March 31.

Fort Larned rebounded nicely from a dull effort when a well-beaten eighth in Churchill's Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap two weeks ago

Along with several other Festival competitors, Fort Larned flew back to his Churchill Downs base Sunday morning.

Sent off as the second choice in the group of six, Fort Larned returned $9.40 to his backers.