Overlooked in Breeders’ Classic, Ft. Larned still outran the field

Janis Whitham has never been in the foreground when a photograph was snapped of a large group of thoroughbred owners. She hasn’t been to every Kentucky Derby or to the Breeders’ Cup weekends with nonstop regularity.

But when she has been successful, the people have known about it because her thoroughbreds have won world-class races.
Possibly her most famous horse before the last Breeders’ Cup Classic was contested had been the robust filly, Bayakoa.
The always-sharp Bayakoa was bred in Argentina and eventually bought by Janis and her husband, Frank.
The fleet bay was doggedly competitive. She had to be to win both the 1989 and 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, the two most important races in determining her being selected as the Eclipse Award winner as the Outstanding Older Female Horse in both those years.
Then came the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic, run on the speed-favoring dirt at picturesque Santa Anita Race Course.
Janis Whitman had Ft. Larned in the $5 million race. Her trainer was Ian Wilkes, another well-respected horseman whose name isn’t always recognized in the United States.
Wilkes has given Ft. Larned a meaty racing schedule to chew on.
Last year, the dark bay colt ran nine times as a three-year-old. He won three of those efforts. None of those wins was in a lined-with-gold race because Ft. Larned’s earnings reached just $79,845.
Here in 2012, he has run another nine times . . . and he will forever be remembered most for winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in a stirring stretch drive duel with the courageous Mucho Macho Man.
This year alone, Ft. Larned has won five times. The grandson of Mr. Prospector and Bayakoa and the great-grandson of Raise a Native and Ack Ack, he had earned $798,455 this year before the Breeders’ Cup Classic came along on the first Saturday in November.
Ft. Larned’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic brought a cool $2,700,000 to Janis Whitham.
In that race, the most attention was aimed at Game on Dude as the odds-on favorite. Ft. Larned was off in the shaded background at odds of 9-1.
He was coming to the one-mile-and-a-quarter race after a qualifying win in the fabled Whitney Stakes run at Belmont Park in New York state.
The Whitney is a Grade I stakes and had been designated as a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge. The Whitney winner had an automatic place in the “Classic” field at Santa Anita.
Ft. Larned and jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. came away from the starting gate from a far outside post position. The twosome were unbothered by traffic as their coordinated effort got them toward the rail and in third position behind Endorsement and Trickmeister.
There was no need to hurry or feel pressure. Ft. Larned was well in hand and he and Hernandez were keeping the leaders in their cross-hairs.
Hernandez was aware of the perfect six furlongs he had helped mold. His horse hadn’t been exerted. In fact, Ft. Larned was a reservoir of energy and ready to pounce on the two in front of him.
Around the final bend and into the Belmont stretch, Hernandez and Ft. Larned seemed to accelerate while the others seemed to be unable to continue their front-running trips.
Whitham’s sweet-striding bay opened lengths of daylight between himself and the others. He had plenty of room to hold off the late moves of Ron the Greek, Hymn Book, and Flat Out.
Said Wilkes among the broad smiles ringing the winner’s circle: “It’s a huge honor to win the race named for the Whitneys. I was very pleased. Brian did a tremendous job. He rode a perfect race and moved him at the right time. He put some open lengths between him and the closers.”
Wilkes and Whitham agree that Ft. Larned will now rest before embarking on a 2013 stakes schedule when Gulfstream Park (Florida) begins its next run in the sun meet early in the year.
“He is going to get a little break and then go to Florida for the winter. The Whitham Family and I will plan backward to get him to next year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2.
“One race I would like to run in is the Stephen Foster. I really want to do better than he did this year (finishing last of eight),” said Wilkes as he told of his still-forming plans for next year.
Janis Whitham and Ian Wilkes hadn’t caught lightning in a bottle in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But they had witnessed a career-defining win for their workaholic thoroughbred.

 

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