08/15/2013 4:31PM

Saratoga notes: Fort Larned breezes for Woodward Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Larned, most recently fifth in the Grade 1 Whitney, breezed a half-mile in 49.29 seconds at Saratoga on Thursday.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Almost immediately after Fort Larned finished fifth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on Aug. 3, trainer Ian Wilkes said he wanted to run back in the Grade 1 Woodward here Aug. 31.

Fort Larned began working toward that goal by breezing four furlongs in 48.29 seconds – he got his last three furlongs in 35.53 – over Saratoga’s main track shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday. He galloped out five-eighths in 1:00.83 and pulled up six furlongs in 1:14.10, according to Daily Racing Form .

“That’s my horse – he’s back,” Wilkes said afterward.

Fort Larned, who won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in June by 6 1/4 lengths, broke a little flatfooted in the Whitney. After seemingly racing in a good stalking position, Fort Larned did not fire in the stretch and finished fifth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Cross Traffic.

Wilkes said Fort Larned’s energy level has been good since the race.

“He’s sharp,” Wilkes said. “He really came out of the race where I want him. You hate to say that because I wanted to win that race, but he did come out good.”

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Wilkes said Fort Larned will have two more works leading up to the Woodward, which unlike the Whitney is a weight-for-age race.

The top five finishers from the Whitney – Cross Traffic, Successful Dan, Mucho Macho Man, Ron the Greek, and Fort Larned – are all under strong consideration for the Woodward, as are Paynter and Flat Out.

Mott fillies target fall stakes

While many believe a victory by Princess of Sylmar in Saturday’s Grade 1 Alabama could earn her an Eclipse Award as this year’s champion 3-year-old filly, there still are two other Grade 1-winning fillies lurking and pointing to a fall campaign.

Close Hatches, the 7 1/4-length winner of the Grade 1 Mother Goose, was forced to miss the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama because of an illness. She is in training at Belmont Park, and her trainer, Bill Mott, is hoping to get Close Hatches to the Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 21.

Mott also trains Emollient, the winner of the Grade 1 Ashland on synthetic and the Grade 1 American Oaks on turf, who is pointing to the Grade 1 Garden City on turf at Belmont on Sept. 14 and then the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland in October.

“With championships, they generally lean toward the dirt fillies,” Mott said. “I suppose if we were to win the Spinster against olders, that would be a feather in her cap. One step at a time, and we’ll see what happens.”

Balance the Books eyes Jamaica

Balance the Books, who returned to the winner’s circle for the first time this year with a neck victory in Wednesday’s $100,000 Stroll Stakes, will be pointed to the Grade 1, $400,000 Jamaica at Belmont Park on Oct. 5, trainer Chad Brown said Thursday.

“I would say that’s what we’re aiming for,” Brown said. “It’s a little bit of a layoff, but that should be OK.”

Benefitting from a terrific ride from Javier Castellano, Balance the Books snuck through along the rail and outfinished Hardest Core. Originally carded for 1 3/16 miles on the Mellon turf course, the race was moved to the inner turf and run at 1 1/8 miles.

“I thought he ran well,” Brown said. “Obviously, Javier made a good move there to work him out of traffic. It all worked out.”

Balance the Books, winless since taking the Grade 3 Bourbon last October, earned a career-best 88 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.