Fort Larned opening up on Whitney Day 2013
As you may have noticed, I was hesitant to remove Fort Larned as this blog’s avatar. Originally, I planned to change it as soon as I found my Derby horse, but that decision came very late and I felt very indifferent about this year’s three-year-old crop. No colt was worthy of toppling my personally taken photo of Fort Larned from accompanying my posts.
If you were a dope and missed the Stephen Foster Handicap (I) last night, let me tell you, you probably missed one of the year’s best performances. I down right hated anyone who passed off Fort Larned’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) win last year as a fluke on a biased track. This horse is gifted, but often is the victim of a few bad days. But when he’s on his oats, you better watch out: he’s the stuff of yesteryear stamina and speed combined.
Yesterday reminded me quite a bit about my first (and only so far) interaction with “Big Ugly,” who stood out like a thumbtack on a chair in the Whitney Handicap (I) post parade last year. The horse looked supremely confident and just happy to be there, his enormous body meeting his big flat head at the crest of two playful, forward-facing ears. He caught my eye earlier in the year winning the Skip Away (III) in a romp, but I figured Ron the Greek was going to be hard to hold off. Fort Larned was unrushed that day, skimming the track just behind Endorsement. I stood near the top of the stretch that day, just a few yards away from the guardian track pony, at the point where he decided to really take off upon getting the lead. There was just no stopping him that day, and the impression lasted long enough to choose him over long-time beloved favorite Game On Dude to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic a few months later, which he did.
I was somewhere around here on Fort Larned’s Whitney day… the track pony was not amused with me trying to take his picture.
I like using Twitter as an information tool, and often times it provides priceless insight about horses that proves useful. Some words from his exercise rider a few days prior:
Yes, I realize I went with Successful Dan anyway, thinking Lopresti’s bay speedball was plenty sharp to spar and possibly eke out a win over the trouble-riddled Big Ugly. I knew one or both would probably be going too fast to comfort Take Charge Indy, who sure enough got too flustered to make an impact worthy of his blue-blooded heritage. But all eyes were on Fort Larned, who won the fight for the lead and from there went on cruise control. I always wish I had the insight to see what the first quarter is like— because most of the time, if I see what the first quarter looks like, I can far more easily pick out the winner based on how fast and how smooth the leader is going. Fort Larned and Brian Hernandez Jr were going a strong clip, opening up on the field, but were going so smoothly it was imminent they were going to be hard to reach. It wasn’t the tautness of the reins that made Ugly look so beautiful going up the backstretch; he just looked so indestructible, furiously pushing against the bit to go farther and faster. Take Charge Indy was struggling to keep pace, and Successful Dan was placed behind a good ways as though hoping Ugly would fold. He didn’t.
Just like in the Whitney, Fort Larned found his best stride when he should have been tired: turning for home. It wasn’t the track or a poor field trailing him that made him look good— he looked like a champion all on his own. I wasn’t at Churchill, but I suspect even those who dumped money on someone else must have been screaming in the stands. He was just that good.
August, come faster!