Fort Larned ran away with the Stephen Foster win on Saturday at Churchill Downs, winning by 6 1/2 lengths (Photos courtesy Eclipse Sportswire).
How can you not be dumbfounded every time you review the data from Fort Larned’s shocking stumble and run-off during the Gulfstream Park Handicap? If ever you wanted to prove the fact that thoroughbred are born to run, and that some will run faster than others when given the opportunity, take a look back at the replay of the race. After dislodging Brian Hernandez, the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner gathered himself and took flight, shooting through the field and setting a wicked but futile pace. Surely, we recognize that Fort Larned ran through sensational fractions without a jockey to slow the journey. Still, the son of E Dubai showed wild professionalism in that race, sticking to the rail and running the “equivalent” of several course records, albeit without a 124-pound impost on his back.
Fort Larned returned with a dull showing in the Oaklawn Handicap, finishing fifth, beaten more than ten lengths, and seemed dull from the start. “I never stopped believing in him. I think the stumble took more out of him than you realize,” trainer Ian Wilkes said during his Monday appearance on SiriusXM’s At The Races with Steve Byk. “He didn’t make me not believe in him, and that is important.”
Given the way he demolished the competition in last Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap, winning by an easy 6 ½ lengths, Wilkes is likely spot-on. Fort Larned moved easily through solid fractions, and ran a fourth quarter-mile in nearly 24 seconds flat after establishing the pace with solid mid-23-second quarter. By comparison, two races before Fort Larned’s romp, Funny Proposition wired the Fleur de Lis (G2) roughly 2 ½ seconds slower over the same trip.
Earlier in the card, Fort Larned’s half-brother Lent earned a maiden win in his second career start, besting a field of eleven rivals which included $4.2 million yearling purchase Mr. Besilu, who was slow from the gate and never got involved. Third placer Strike It Big covered 30 feet more than Lent and was beaten less than three lengths. The extra ground was more than his losing margin.
Royal Delta was disappointing as the 3-10 favorite for the Fleur de Lis, her first start since a listless effort in the Dubai World Cup, but she definitely covered extra ground in the race. Overall, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner covered 44 feet more than Funny Proposition in a five-length drubbing. Converted to lengths, 44 feet equates to roughly 5.1 lengths overall. It never seemed as though Royal Delta was all that comfortable in the run, with jockey Mike Smith scrubbing from a long-way out, but perhaps the extra energy expenditure via the wide trip led to a portion of her margin of defeat.
FUNNY PROPOSITION UPSETS ROYAL DELTA IN THE FLEUR DE LIS
The Ramseys’ Kitten’s Dumplings made it consecutive wins over the Churchill Downs lawn taking the Regret Stakes at nine furlongs. The daughter of Kitten’s Joy covered 29 feet more than second-placer Praia, and 55 feet more than third home Oscar Party. Praia came home faster than the winner, recording a final furlong in 11.97 seconds, besting the winner with a next-fastest time of 12.12 seconds. The exacta was a replica of the Edgewood Stakes from Kentucky Oaks day, including the final sectional times, when Praia was slightly faster than Kitten’s Dumplings.