08/05/2012 11:46AM

Saratoga: Backstretch neighbors Jerkens, Wilkes bask in Grade 1 glory

Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Larned got a 110 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Whitney.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The Clare Court contingent was quite content Sunday morning at Saratoga.

Stabled next to each other in barns 5 and 6 on the far end of the main track side of the Saratoga backstretch, trainers Allen Jerkens and Ian Wilkes were still receiving congratulatory visits and phone calls on their respective Grade 1 victories from the previous day.

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Jerkens, the 83-year-old Hall of Famer, won Saturday’s $300,000 Prioress with Emma’s Encore, who got up by a nose over Judy the Beauty. Wilkes, the 47-year-old Australian-born trainer, won the $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap with Fort Larned, who won by 1 1/4 lengths over Ron the Greek.

 Jerkens may have summed it up best for both horsemen when he said “This is awesome and everything that goes with it.”

 Emma’s Encore gave Jerkens his first Grade 1 victory since Miss Shop won the Personal Ensign here in 2007. A filly who ran and lost for maiden $50,000 claiming at Gulfstream on Feb. 2, Emma’s Encore has won 4 of 6 starts since, including two graded stakes.

 “I asked the lady if she wanted to run her for $50,000 because her form didn’t look like it warranted running in maiden special down there,” said Jerkens, referring to owner Brenda Mercer, who has since brought in a partner Peter Berglar. “Then she won the maiden Florida-bred race and the next race she won she really got in a lot of trouble. That’s when [assistant Fernando Abreu] was screaming going into the winner circle ‘the real deal, the real deal!’ ”

 Jerkens said Sunday morning that he would nominate Emma’s Encore to the Grade 1 Test, a seven-furlong race here on Aug. 24, and evaluate how the filly is doing before deciding whether to run.

 “If she’s doing exceptionally well, maybe we will take a chance,” Jerkens said.

 In the barn next door, Wilkes was just as happy and equally as uncertain about what might be next for Fort Larned, who earned an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic by virtue of his Whitney victory. His entry fees will be paid and there is a $10,000 travel stipend to get Fort Larned to Santa Anita for the Nov. 3 Classic.

 Wilkes said Fort Larned came out of the race tired, but otherwise in good order. Wilkes said options for Fort Larned include the Woodward here on Sept. 1 or the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 29.

 “Which approach we take I’m going to have to watch him and see how he does and how I want to proceed from there,” Wilkes said. “He’s going to tell us. I’m still walking on Cloud 9 so I don’t know if I could make the right decision yet.”

 The decision to run against a quality field in the Whitney was certainly the right decision for a horse that had finished last in the Stephen Foster, the only Grade 1 in which Fort Larned had previously run.

 Fort Larned earned a career-best 110 Beyer Speed Figure, to go along a trio of 108 Beyers he had earned earlier in the year.

 At the complete opposite end of Saratoga, trainer Bill Mott was discussing plans for Whitney second- and third-place finishers Ron the Greek and Flat Out. Both were compromised by wide trips. Flat Out may actually have hurt Ron the Greek’s chances as he parked him out around the far turn. Both were forced out again in the stretch when Hymn Book came out a step.

 “Ron had to take the Overland route coming for home,” Mott said. “I don’t know that he had a big option. He’s a big one-run horse. I don’t think there was a wide open path on the inside. If went up in there he might have gotten stopped.”

 Mott said Flat Out, who was beaten a head by his stablemate for second, “had better position going into the first turn, but lost his position coming out of the turn.”

Mott said that Ron the Greek would point to the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 29. Flat Out is possible to run back in the Woodward here on Sept. 1.

 “He’s only had two races this year,” Mott said of Flat Out. “I think it would be possible to run him back in four weeks if he’s doing well.”

 Trainer Shug McGaughey said he was disappointed in Hymn Book’s fourth-place finish in the Whitney. He said he would likely point him to the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch