08/26/2013 3:22PM

Saratoga: Fort Larned tunes up for Woodward

Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Larned, with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. riding, works out Monday at Saratoga.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Ian Wilkes was obviously disappointed in Fort Larned’s fifth-place finish as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Whitney here earlier this month. But instead of looking back on what might have been, Wilkes is thinking ahead to what he hopes will be a bounce-back performance for the reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic champion in Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward.

Fort Larned turned in his final prep for the Woodward here early Monday morning, working five-eighths in 1:00.74 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.38 with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard.

“I asked Brian to fly in for the work because I wanted him back on the horse again before the race,” Wilkes said. “It was just the type of work I wanted, especially the way he galloped out. Brian said he was very happy with him, and so was I.”

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Wilkes offered no excuses for Fort Larned’s performance in the Whitney.

“I’m not going to dwell on it,” said Wilkes, who won Monday’s second race with Ocean Boulevard. “I think the handicap division is unbelievably strong this year. There were a lot of good horses in that race, and there will be a lot of good ones in this one. We’ll see how the post position draw goes before plotting out any strategy, and I’m really looking forward to running him back here Saturday.”

Fort Larned was one of two Woodward candidates to work Monday, along with Flat Out, who posted a bullet half-mile in 48.30 seconds over the Oklahoma training track. Three others, Whitney winner Cross Traffic, Mucho Macho Man, and Ron the Greek had their final preps Sunday.

A field of eight is shaping up for the Woodward and also figures to include Alpha, Successful Dan, and Paynter.

[SARATOGA 2013: Complete meet coverage, exclusive DRF videos]

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he is still not 100 percent certain whether Cross Traffic will run in the Woodward or await the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 28. Cross Traffic worked after the renovation break in company with his undefeated stablemate Eastwood on Sunday, the pair going an easy half-mile in 48.12 seconds before galloping out five-eighths in 1:00.99 and pulling up six furlongs in 1:13.94.

“There’s a good chance he’ll be entered, and I’d say it’s probably more likely he’ll run here than he won’t run,” Pletcher said. “The horse is here, he’s doing well, and he won the Whitney over this racetrack, but he also ran very well at Belmont. The deciding factor will be what I think gives us the best chance to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”

Trainer Bill Mott confirmed Monday that he plans to run both Flat Out and Ron the Greek in the Woodward. Ron the Greek worked an easy half-mile in 49.30 over the Oklahoma training track Sunday. Flat Out has not started since winning the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont on July 6. Ron the Greek finished fourth in the Whitney.

“Ron was bucking and squealing yesterday, and [exercise rider] Neil [Poznansky] said Flat Out gave him a very good feeling this morning,” Mott said after training hours Monday. “We had the option with Flat Out to run in the Whitney coming off his win in the Suburban, but we worked him and felt he wasn’t on his game 100 percent. He’s had issues with his feet, and we felt we needed a little more time. With that being said, we pointed for the Woodward. We didn’t want to skip them both.”

Mott will need a new rider for Ron the Greek, with his regular rider, Jose Lezcano, set to miss the next four weeks with a wrist injury suffered in a spill here Sunday.

Mucho Macho Man, who finished third in the Whitney, breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:03.55 under jockey Edgar Prado on Sunday, completing his final quarter in 24.86 without urging before galloping out six furlongs in 1:16.31.

“It was perfect,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “I just wanted an easy five-eighths and for him to gallop out well, and that’s exactly what he did. Edgar said he felt great. He was really happy with him, that he just kind of tugged him around there. I think he’ll be a stronger horse on Saturday than he was in the Whitney. He’s a big, muscular horse, so the third race in the cycle should be his best one. He’s definitely matured and grown over the past year, and I think he’s as good as, if not better, going into this race than he was last summer.”

Mucho Macho Man finished second, beaten a neck by To Honor and Serve, in the 2012 Woodward.

– additional reporting by David Grening

zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
Love Paynter, but not in this spot. Early leans Cross Traffic and maybe Flat Out.
Michael Barnes More than 1 year ago
It's gonna be impossible to cheer against PAYNTER .... Love ZAYAT Stables and what they have done to get this horse where he is today.. But if someone is gonna be coming late I guess I will take my chances with MMM...should be an awesome Race!!! Lets pray everyone gets home safely..
Guy John More than 1 year ago
I don't see FL winning unless CT scratches. FL hasn't done much unless he's on the lead and CT is too fast. FL won the Whitney LY rating but the track was playing to closers that day. CR has run 3 hard races in a row so I think he'll get caught in final 1/16. That said, the only other horses in good form are SD and Paynter. I'm going to box those 3.
Albert More than 1 year ago
It's hard to imagine that this race won't be fast up front. I mean I've seen jockeys do stupid things with speedy horses, but you have 3 'need the lead' types in this race and I am guessing they won't all take back. If that is the case, all of the front running types will have trouble finishing against the closers, who are very, very good. Fort Larned is coming off a pretty bad bounce and is unlikely to be at his best for the race. MMM will outrun him this time. Flat Out and Ron the Greek are good, but they can't beat MMM at their best and his. The whole question becomes, is MMM at his best? If so, he wins this one pretty easily.
Mark More than 1 year ago
How does larned run second off lay off ? Freaky. Best horse in race on his A game. He rebounds and wins .
Perl More than 1 year ago
I dunno, Mark. He can't outfoot X-traffic to the lead. That one has more natural early speed than him. So he will have to win from off the pace and he hasn't been that successful at it. Plus you have Paynter up there to deal with. I think either X-traffic or Paynter wins. Successful Dan will hopefully get pounded, because as much as I love this horse, he's a 7yo coming off a big effort and I will play him to bounce.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Wow, I would have a hard time playing MMM on top in this race, or any other race for that matter. Every time this horse gets a whiff of the lead he looks for a nice place to hide in and among horses. How many times has this horse hung with the money on the line? Overall, he's a great horse to use in the 2/3 spots, but you've got to wonder if he can ever get it done. That said, he will be a square price and I wish you the best of luck.
Mine thatbird More than 1 year ago
My heart wants MMM to get his G1 win but my pocketbook doesn't. Good luck.
Guy John More than 1 year ago
The undisclosed injury at Gulfstream was MMM's demise. Ritvo used to always space his races because she said he needed more time in between, but now she's run him 3x since June. His retirement is upon us.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Very tough field. Toughest to date of any handicap this year on either coast. Sentimental towards Paynter after what he has endured. Appears wide open. Maybe post draws will shed some light.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Yeah successful Dan and mmm only horse to not win a grade one in career. MMM second. In breeders game on dude breaks with fort larned maybe he wins. Big If. The other 6 have won grade ones in past year. Excellent field wish it was bigger couple more maybe for betting purpose maybe throw last gun fighter and power broker as huge longshots
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
So my early pick is paynter hope he can get outside of crosstraffic and fort larned. Tired of mucho macho man never won a grade one look it up amazing. So much hyper around five year old with no grade one wins. My second choice is flat out, horse has won alot of money in his career and came up winner against 4 horses in this field alpha, Ron thegreek, crosstraffic and fort larned. Maybe he can finally win outside of Belmont park.longshot alpha I have to think trainer is not just sending him to the wolves, but there is the godolphin thing. when u are dealing with a people with all the money in the world and he has one a grade one win before maybe they are sending out there for no reason.
Nick More than 1 year ago
MMM would dominzae grade 3's...he should do well in the breeding shed...the horse has alot of heart...just cant seem to get there...shouldn't leave him out of the exotics
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
You have a great point. He looks the part if given quality mares could produce some monster. Maybe he is the next stormcat?
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
And and all the Game On Dude supporters act like these horses out here in the EAST are no threat because they beat up on each other. These G1s out here are deep compare to those out West. The fact that they beat up on each other is a testament to how tough and evenly matched these horses are. GOD has it easy out there in Cali...that's why he didn't know what hit him last year in the Classic.
Mark More than 1 year ago
+ 1
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
They are definately all threats to Dude. But one of them has to win this and or JCGC and Classic to win older Eclipse over Dude. I'm an east coast Guy. This just seems a fact to me. Without considering Wise Dan who has to win a grade 1 on dirt FOY HOY or Older honors this year. IMO
Willie R. More than 1 year ago
If Wise Dan remains undefeated & wins the BC Mile Turf he will most likely get HOY. The only horse that could challenge him as of now is GOD, but he needs to win BC Classic. Why should Wise Dan have to win a G1 on dirt? Why shouldn't the others have to come face him on turf? People like you need to remover your blinkers and realize that Wise Dan does not need to run on dirt to prove anything!
Rafael Acosta More than 1 year ago
Thanks Willie, for your reasoned argument.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Actually he has to win on dirt this year to get the votes. The same analogy people use on this board to knock Game On Dude is being used on Wise Dan. Yes its a great story. I get it, but until he beats some of these older horses on dirt or poly forget about it this year. If he beats Obviously and thats a big if in the BC he gets another notch in his belt. Best turf horse. I think Point of Entry and Obviously are going to make it tough on him.
Perl More than 1 year ago
I agree he has to win on dirt this year to win HOY in all likelihood, but Wise Dan should be able to handle Obviously again, unless his form is diminished. Also, he won't have to worry about Point of Entry, who I doubt will be back in time for the BC but will run in the 12f Turf if he does come back.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Hey, I love Wise Dan as much as the next guy, but if he hypothetically wins the Woodbine Mile, the Shadwell Mile and the BC Mile and Game on Dude loses the BC Classic, I think Game on Dude still may win horse of the year.
TheRaiderFan More than 1 year ago
Would love to see Paynter win this race
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
that old man would knock your buck teeth out
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Why do you hate Mr. Zayat?
MJP More than 1 year ago
"We’ll see how the post position draw goes before plotting out any strategy, and I’m really looking forward to running him back here Saturday.” Personally I'm getting a little irritated with Wilkes. Hasn't he seen enough of his own horse to know that he is far and away at his best when allowed to run free on the lead? Don't worry about "strategy" dammit, just bust Fort Larned like a quarterhorse from the gate and let him run them off their hooves. Follow the example of Game on Dude yesterday.
Bob More than 1 year ago
He can't follow Dudes example because Larned does not tower over any field he runs against. He can be beat at any given race. Dude dominates , it isn't the horses fault who he is running against . MMM will be right there in this one
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
You can gun him, but that doesn't mean he can clear Cross Traffic and then he's done. Cross Traffic is quickest of the quick in this field. Paynter doesn't need the lead, but he will press and not let anyone get away with what Moreno got away with. It seems pretty easy. Successful Dan.
jim More than 1 year ago
I think we should all wait until Friday and Saturday before making predictions. If NYRA does not tame the tracks, it could be speed ball heaven again,as was the case Sat. It was not enjoyable at all! Jim