Defending Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned worked a sharp five furlongs in 1:00 ⅗ in company Oct. 22 at Churchill Downs, tightening the screws in preparation for a title defense Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
Side-by-side with regular workmate Neck 'n Neck, the 5-year-old son of E Dubai went in splits of :12 ⅗, :25, :48 ⅘, and out in 1:13 ⅕, 1:26 ⅗, and 1:41 ⅕. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. was in the irons. It was a quick turnaround from an Oct. 19 breeze in which Fort Larned went four furlongs in :49 flat.
"We weren't looking for any kind of race, just a nice work together, a nice, solid work," trainer Ian Wilkes said. "Everything is good, he worked good and galloped out good, and that was the important thing."
Winner of the Classic last year at odds of 9-1, Janis Whitham's homebred Fort Larned comes off a 1 ½-length victory in the Sept. 28 Homecoming Classic Stakes going 1 ⅛ miles at Churchill, where he dazzled by 6 ¼ lengths in the June 15 Stephen Foster Handicap Sponsored by Abu Dhabi. He also battled inconsistency this season, finishing fifth in the Whitney Invitational Handicap at Saratoga Race Course and fifth in the Oaklawn Handicap after stumbling from the gate and dropping Hernandez in his season debut, the Gulfstream Park Handicap.
"It was very important," Wilkes said of the Homecoming Classic. "I had to get that race. If I didn't get that race, I couldn't go [to the Breeders' Cup]. It was a nice race for him, he came out of it good. [His record this year] is a legitimate question, but all you can control is your own horse, and at this point he's moving forward, and I'm pleased with him."
Fort Larned will ship to Santa Anita on Oct. 29, where he will encounter four rivals from last year's Classic -- runner-up Mucho Macho Man, third-place finisher Flat Out, fourth-place finisher Ron the Greek, and local star Game On Dude (seventh in 2012).
Game On Dude, who will contest his third running of the Classic (he was second in 2011), went a solid six furlongs in 1:11 ⅖ at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on Oct. 22. The 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding is training straight up to the Classic off a 8 ½-length romp in the Aug. 25 TVG Pacific Classic for a partnership group that includes Mercedes Stable, Bernie Schiappa, the Lanni Family Trust, and Joe Torre's Diamond Pride LLC.
Also on the Santa Anita worktab was Breeders' Cup Distaff runner Beholder, who went seven furlongs in 1:24 ⅖ for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. Spendthrift Farm's sophomore Henny Hughes filly won the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last year and owns three other grade I victories, including her most recent in the Sept. 28 Zenyatta Stakes.