All systems are go for Fort Larned, as he attempts to join an exclusive group.
The 5-year-old son of E. Dubai worked a five-furlong bullet Monday as he prepped for Saturday’s Grade I $750,000 Whitney Invit-ational.
Only one other horse has ever won back-to-back Whitney’s in the previous 85 years of this historic race.
NYRA clockers timed Fort Larned in 1:00.71 on the main track under regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr., the fastest of 31 works at the distance.
“Everything went good, we’re very happy,” said Ian Wilkes, who trains Fort Larned for owner Janis Whitham. “It was just how he did it. It was a little crisp work, just the right way. I put a horse out there in front for him. I didn’t want to hurt the other horse, but I wanted something for him to look at.”
Discovery, who won three consecutive Whitneys from 1934-36, when it was contested at 11⁄4 miles, is the only horse to win the race in consecutive years. Hall of Famer Kelso (1961, 1963, 1965) and New York-bred Commentator (2005, 2008) are the only other horses to win the Whitney more than once.
Fort Larned won last year’s Whitney, run at 11⁄8 miles since 1955, in 1:47.76, beating Ron the Greek by 11⁄4 lengths.
“It would be special,” Wilkes said. “I’m fortunate enough to train a few horses for Marylou Whitney, which would make it even more special.”
This year, Fort Larned stumbled and lost his rider in his debut, the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap in March, then was fifth, beaten 101⁄2 lengths, in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap on April 13.
After some time off, Fort Larned came back to wire the field in Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap on June 15 at Churchill Downs, his most recent race.
“I feel good,” Wilkes said. “I think he’s a more mature horse right now. He’s more battle-tested. He’s run some huge races against some of the best competition.”
The post-position draw for the Whitney will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the Saratoga paddock. Also expected to be entered are Alpha, Cross Traffic, Csaba, Fast Falcon, Mucho Macho Man and Successful Dan.
CSABA JOINS WHITNEY
Csaba, the 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, joined the Whitney Field as a late addition.
Trainer Phil Gleaves originally pointed Csaba toward Friday’s Birdstone, but that race drew only three entries.
“We were pointing toward the Birdstone, but it is what it is, and it didn’t fill,” said Gleaves. “We’ve come up here with a horse that is ready to run, so we’ll go in the Whitney.”
Last year, Csaba lost by a nose in the Grade II Hall of Fame here.
“I had it in the back of my mind that if it was a small field, we would go in the Whitney,” said Gleaves. “It’s going to be a field of high-quality animals. We’re going to see where Csaba fits.”
Following his fourth-place finish in Sunday’s Haskell, Preakness winner Oxbow has been diagnosed with a soft-tissue injury, according to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
“The X-rays were all perfectly clean,” said Lukas. “It’s what you guys would call an ankle sprain, it looks like. I was more concerned with a condylar [fracture] or something like that, but, boy, he had a pretty set of X-rays. It’s amazing. For a horse with that many starts, they were really clean.”
Oxbow was leading the race, going six furlongs in 1:12.43, before dropping back and eventually finishing fourth for Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.
“He just wasn’t traveling comfortably,” Lukas said. “Gary overreacted probably a little bit, but the good thing is we X-rayed him from top to bottom and everything’s clean. [Stevens] thought at the half-mile that he was starting to get uncomfortable, and he just kind of held him from there.”
Lukas said he wasn’t sure when Oxbow would return. Oxbow was sixth in the Kentucky Derby and second to Palace Malice in the Belmont Stakes.
Heavy favorite Wedding Toast was an impressive wire-to-wire winner in Monday’s second race for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. It was McLaughlin’s second victory of the meet.
Don Dulce captured the fourth race by charging past Aussi Austin in a photo finish. Luis Saez rode Don Dulce, who paid 17.20 to win.
Hyman Roth, Jose Ortiz up, took the card’s second photo finish by stubbornly holding on to his pos-ition along the rail to edge Ricochet Court in the fifth race.
Bizarroworld won the sixth race, which was named for The Daily Gazette.
Manuel Franco got the ride for Bizarroworld.
Ultimate Empire finished first but then was disqualified for interfering with Jade Run in the seventh race. Jade Run, Alex Solis in the saddle, was placed first, and Ultimate Empire was placed second.
Old Friends at Cabin Creek in Greenfield Center will host a lunch with Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby winner, on Aug. 6 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Owner Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stable, trainer Barclay Tagg and assistant trainer Robin Smullen will be on hand, along with jockey Jose Santos.
The lunch will be catered by Five Point Deli. Suggested don-ation is $20, and it will benefit the retired race horses at the farm. Call 698-2377 for more information.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will participate in the National Museum of Racing’s “Hall of Fame Legends” series at 11 this morning.
He will be in the Hall of Fame Gallery with Jeff Carle of Capital OTB TV serving as interviewer. The program is free to attend with a paid museum admission.
The series will feature 60-minute interviews by Carle with oppor-tunities for audience members to ask questions of some of the biggest names in thoroughbred racing.
Hall of Fame jockey Jacinto Vasquez and trainer Leroy Jolley will be the guests for next Tuesday’s Legends program.