Next stop Santa Anita! Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic-G1 winner FORT LARNED stamped his ticket to California with a very workmanlike performance in the first running of the $175,000 Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday, September 28. Janis R. Whitham’s homebred son of E DUBAI led at every call and comfortably held off all challengers to get his seventh career stakes victory in a snappy 1:48.58 for the mile and an eighth.
“Everything has to go right now,” said trainer Ian Wilkes to Churchill Downs’ officials the morning following the Homecoming Classic. “Everything has to be perfect, timing has to be right, everything has to be spot-on. You can’t make any mistakes now going to the Breeders’ Cup.”
It was the second stakes win of the year for 5-year-old FORT LARNED, adding to his dominating score in Churchill’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster H. The 10-time winner has now earned $4,171,322 from 24 career starts and proved he’s back on track after a muscle strain in August kept him from seeking a repeat victory in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Whitney H.
“The horse needed the race,” said Wilkes. “He got everything out of it that I wanted from it, because we had to miss a little bit of training with that muscle issue early on after the Woodward. He just wasn’t 100 percent. But he looked bright and alert this morning and he got a lot out of the race, so that was good.”
FORT LARNED is one of 15 graded stakes winners lifetime for E DUBAI, which count for nearly half of the stallion’s total of 33. Four of E DUBAI’s seven stakes horses this year are graded performers. Ranked among the top-10 stallions in the nation last year by progeny earnings, E DUBAI is currently the leading active sire in Pennsylvania with more than $3.6 million in progeny earnings.