Updated on 08/07/2012 1:22PM

Saratoga: Fort Larned turns stalking trip into a Whitney victory

Tom Keyser
Fort Larned gives Kentucky jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. the biggest victory of his career in the Whitney Handicap.

 SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Fort Larned was training so well leading up to Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap that trainer Ian Wilkes couldn’t wait until Saturday to talk to his jockey.

So in mid-week he called Brian Hernandez, the Kentucky-based jockey who would be riding Fort Larned to share with him the good vibrations.

The conversation filled Hernandez with so much confidence that there were no nerves for the 26-year-old, who would be making his first ever trip to Saratoga.

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What Wilkes imparted to Hernandez was evident for all to see Saturday at steamy Saratoga as Fort Larned blew the Whitney open turning for home then lasted for a 1 1/4-length victory over the dual Grade 1 winner Ron the Greek in the 85th Whitney Handicap. It was a head back to his stablemate Flat Out as both horses were compromised by wide trips.

Hymn Book, who floated the Bill Mott-trained pair out in upper stretch, finished fourth and was followed in the order of finish by Trickmeister, Endorsement, Hunters Bay, Caixa Eletronica and Rule.

The win was the first Grade 1 victory for Fort Larned and earned him an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. As part of the Win and You’re In program, Fort Larned will have his entry-fees paid and his connections will get a $10,000 travel stipend.

Fort Larned, Janis Whitham’s 4-year-old homebred son of E Dubai and a grandson of two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Bayakoa, had put in some sensational works over Saratoga’s main track, including a five-furlong move in 58.40 seconds on Monday.

“If anyone had seen him work he worked unbelievable. He worked a little faster than I wanted, but he galloped out unbelievable,” Wilkes said. “He was on his game. Seeing him come back he never left an oat. It didn’t take anything out of him.”

 Breaking from post 9, Fort Larned got out of the gate quickly and entering the first turn was laying third behind Endorsement, who set fractions of 23.42 seconds for the quarter, 46.97 for the half-mile, and 1:10.86 for six furlongs while being chased by Trickmeister.

Meanwhile, Hernandez had Fort Larned about two lengths the pace before the horse moved Hernandez to the leaders around the far turn. Fort Larned took charge turning for home, opened up four lengths at midstretch and despite some premature celebrating from Hernandez got to the wire first.

“I was able to follow the two on the lead around there. Going into the second turn I knew I had a lot of horse and just stayed out of his way and he took us home,” Hernandez said.

Fort Larned covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.76 and returned $16.40 to win.

Fort Larned had won three stakes this year, but finished last in the Stephen Foster on June 16 before coming back to win the Grade 3 Cornhusker by three lengths two weeks later.

“Coming out of the Stephen Foster you got beat, you got your head handed to you there, and so you always question yourself, but I think he belongs,” Wilkes said.

Ron the Greek, coming off a win in the Stephen Foster, and Flat Out, last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, were already Grade 1 winners before the Whitney. Flat Out and Ron the Greek attempted to move at the same time around the far turn, with Flat Out carrying Ron the Greek out a path.

In upper stretch Hymn Book came out on Flat Out, which forced him to carry Ron the Greek Out.

“I think we got packed out a little bit on the turn with Ron the Greek,” said Bill Mott, who trains both horses. “Last time, he had an inside trip and got up by a nose. Today he went around and it cost him that length and the win perhaps.

“They both ran very well and looked like they kept coming,” Mott added. “The Jockey Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup [Classic] shouldn’t be a problem with either one.”

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm just happy that I was there and was able to take it all in....It was a Saratoga Classic that I will never forget...."Perfect"
Phil D More than 1 year ago
Congrats to Fort Larned, he was my fourth choice, saved me in hitting a pick three, i didn't think he could be off the pace to win it but proved me wrong.If Ron the Greek didn't have such a wide turn he would have won and i would have lost in going against him
Frank Kulcsar More than 1 year ago
Now you guys know how I feel about Ramon D and rides--That,s why we got to play the best horse thet will carry anybody home--think Ky derby & Mario
denali1 More than 1 year ago
Fort Larned is no joke fellas cant believe he went off at 7-1. He had the highest beyer and a quick workout. How the heck can u say Ron the Greek was the better horse no way. Stop blaming the jockey for your loss of coin. FL was much the best today its good to see Flat Out run well i expect hes back to form and will improve next out. I was very impressed with FL and unlike Kip I enjoyed a great meal on my winnings lol.
Kip Moench More than 1 year ago
Great ride Lezcano. Ron the Greek only ran an extra furlong, totaling a mile and and a quarter or so, in a mile and an eighth race. Despite your being dead last for most of the race, you managed to find a way to destroy any chance for Ron The Greek to win, by moving him up and out, and into the first row of the grandstands turning for home, and exactly at the wrong time. I am really sick of seeing this asinine 20 path move turning for home, destroying any chance for the best horse in the race to win.It's not just Lezcano. It is the seen over and over again.Is it really that difficult to understand that the 20 path is not where you want to go? Disgustingly Unreal! It's enough to make the biggest fans quit this game.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Maybe the dumbest post I have ever seen. Were you at the track watching this happen in real time? No? Cause I was at the top of the stretch, and Lezcano's move was fine until the other horse kept drifting, If you could predict that during the race, you should have been able to predict before and not made the bet! Wait, you couldn't? Neither could the jockey!
sat.customer More than 1 year ago
Wow,did you see the race. It was a HORRIBLE ride by Lezcano. I'm glad I didn't get back home in time to bet the race. RTG is the best horse in training right now. Mott has to put a top-notch jock on him . He won the SAhcp and SF despite Lezcano. He fits better with mid-level turf claimers.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
I don't understand. Lezcano gave him a perfect ride in the Big Cap. He did get lucky in the Stephen Foster but it was also the only way that he could have won - save ground going inside plus Wise Dan couldn't see him. This is a true 10f horse. He is much more beatable at 9f.
Kip Moench More than 1 year ago
Mike? Really? I wasn't there, because you were? Lol! Now that is dumb! Tell ya what Mike, if you can't grasp the concept of the shortest distance between two points is a direct path, and, timing your run so as not to wind up in the widest possible outside 20 path, because that would be the longest path, well, all I can tell you Mike, is good luck.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Mike is right. Ron The Greek was fine going 4-wide but carried out by Flat Out and then even wider by Hymn Book. Both Rosie and Johnny V were just waiting for Ron The Greek before they make their final moves. He was the horse to beat. Don't worry, he will get his revenge in the 10f Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Either way it sets him up well for SA one more prep in the JC Gold Cup,a and Mott Wins another BC Classic
John O'Neill More than 1 year ago
Deep Closers in 11/8 races at the spa are not good bets and the Whitney was a perfect case study of what happens to them .
Joe Rockhold More than 1 year ago
I've never understood how Lezcano gets the great mounts he does. The guy finds more trouble than anyone I have ever seen. His ride on Ron The Greek in the Big Cap was bad as well - luckily the horse was good enough to overcome it. Also, his ride in the Foster left a lot to be desired and his ride on Royal Delta in Dubai was flat out brutal. Those are just a couple G1's off the top of my head - I could go on and on. I've learnd to steer clear of any horse he rides and hopefully this race will wake up some trainers to look elsewhere. That being said, Fort Larned was the best horse in the Whitney. No doubt in my mind anyway.
sat.customer More than 1 year ago
he got taken off of Winter memories
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Andy Beyer had decided twice that Fort Larned matched his 108 BSF. What will he decide to arbitrarily assign this time. 1:47 and change should result in a massive speed figure. This is my guess. He will assume that Flat Out almost matched his personal best BSF of 113, so he will assign 112. That gives Ron The Greek a new top BSF of either 112 or 113. Fort Larned will be the new Beyer darling at a cool 116!! Assigning BSF is such an amusing exercise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fort Larned had 3 108's going in and wins at 7-1. That was a steal. Sorry you're tearing up your tickets because you refuse to consider a column of numbers, hey maybe that's wht they're in BOLD font. This race was an argument for BSF not against!
John O'Neill More than 1 year ago
Whoever does the Beyers for PM has been spot on for years.All those horses who came here two years ago with big BSFs ran to them and won at the Spa.
john More than 1 year ago
Think what helped FL get off at the odds he did was the jockey, nobody bet the horse because of who was riding him, but guess what he has been riding him and the kid can ride, typical race where the public bet the name jockeys and trainers, not the best horse
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
I hit the exacta in the Whitney, I went with 4 bets. The post was about the arbitrary nature of BSF, it's not about winning or losing. My point was that both the Alysheba and the Prairie Meadows Handicap should have been higher than 108 instead of conveniently assume that he matched his previous top Beyer. This is especially so because the Alysheba was a G2 (his first 108 was set in a G3) and they set a new track record. If one day I become the successor to Andy Beyer, I would have assigned something like 113 for the Alysheba, 110 for the PM Handicap and make your decision to pick Fort Larned so much easier, albeit at a shorter price. Don't assume that people are always talking out of bitterness. It doesn't say much about your own character.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Hey Abdul - Get back on your camel and ride on outa here!
John Flynn More than 1 year ago
Brian Hernandez JR gave this horse a Wonderful Ride & has turned into a Great Rider. This is a Feel Good Story.
Mine thatbird More than 1 year ago
Honestly, I got home today with 4 minutes till post and looked for both Fort Larned and Ron the Greek. Liked Larned better and stuck with him even though I was Nervous about Hernandez. Glad you are right though, I expected him to set the pace but sitting just off it gave him a nice ride. I think he could be special years end.
Steve Hanna More than 1 year ago
Brian has been a very solid rider for several years. When given a good horse he makes the best of it. Lot of good riders come out of La.
Mine thatbird More than 1 year ago
Had Fort Larned in the Foster and lost. Got it back and then some today.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Good call.I jumped off Fort Larned,,,, Can't win them all. And, well ,I proved I could lose them all.
Steve Hanna More than 1 year ago
Fort Larned got horrible tip in Foster, when he beat Dan last race, stamped him the real deal. Only question can he get the 1 1/4 ? Likes Churchill.
john More than 1 year ago
Dont really matter if he likes churchill, being the breeders cup is at santa anita
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
The current Santa Anita dirt oval tends to favor speed but the 2 turn races are fairer to all types of runners. Fort Larned has speed and he has won from speed favoring Gulfstream with very short stretch, speed favoring Saratoga with very long stretch, deep and cuppy Tampa Bay, to a unique sand ratio Churchill dirt surface where many grass horses were able to transfer their form to dirt, I have very little doubt that he can handle the Santa Anita dirt surface. This horse also has tremendous stamina influence from both sides.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
The son of E Dubai makes him a direct descendant to Mr. Prospector (2 generations, in 3 generations you are allowed to in-breed). How rare is that? He should get 10f.
sat.customer More than 1 year ago
Another chump saying he had the winner...after the race.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Great race. Especially in the stretch run. Fort Larned ran huge race. Congratulations. Also to Flat Out and Ron The Greek. Wide trip definately cost them both.