Monday, 6 August 2012
: Kentucky jockey Brian Hernandez Jr made a dream Saratoga debut to win the G1 Whitney Invitational Handicap for trainer Ian Wilkes on Saturday aboard the improving Fort Larned.
The impressive winner of the G3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadoes at his previous, Fort Larned stepped up to G1 company with ease as he raced clear of a strong field to win the Whitney by 1.25 lengths at odds of 7-1.
“It's a huge honor to win the race named for the Whitneys," Wilkes said.
"Brian did a tremendous job; first time over this track. He rode a perfect race and moved him at the right time.
"He put some lengths between him and the closers."
The Bill Mott-trained favourite Ron The Greek rallied to get up for second over his late-running stablemate Flat Out.
Fort Larned took the lead at the quarter pole and was in command in the stretch to open up a four length lead at the furlong pole before Hernandez appeared to relax and hold on as Ron The Greek closed strongly.
“On the second turn I knew I had a lot of horse," Hernandez said. "He toted us around and took us home.
"We all just had a lot of confidence in him knowing he would run this kind of race today.”
Fort Larned earned his fourth win of the year in seven starts for Wilkes and more than doubled his career earnings to $881,236. He has a career record of 7-2-0 in 17 races.
“This is a free-running horse," Wilkes said. "He can do a lot of things. I always thought he belonged in the division."
Wilkes said the $750,000 G1 Woodward Stakes on September 1 at Saratoga would be a natural follow-up to the Whitney.
Saturday's G1 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga for 3YO fillies was won by Emma's Encore, a $2000 yearling trained by veteran Allen Jerkens.
It was the first G1 success for Jerkens since 2007.
* The $750,000 G2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park was saw Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner
Hansen fade after being pressed on the pace with Macho Macho giving champion trainer Steve Asmussen his fourth victory in the event.
* At Del Mar the G1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes went to the Ron Ellis-trained Include Me Out, earning her a start in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.