How Fort Larned came to be known as “Big Ugly”
Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned doesn’t boast the most glorious nickname around the barn.
His connections, friends and fans call the son of E Dubai “Big Ugly.”
“He’s always been affectionately named ‘Big Ugly’ around the barn,” said trainer Ian Wilkes. “He was a big 2-year-old with a big old head. But everyone liked him. He definitely showed a little talent.”
While he might be called “Big Ugly,” his Breeders’ Cup Classic victory at Santa Anita last year was a thing of beauty for Wilkes, owner Janis Whitham and jockey Brian Hernandez. Fort Larned went wire-to-wire in the 1 1/4-mile test, holding Mucho Macho Man at bay.
“It was crazy,” Hernandez said. “We turned for home, and I knew I had a lot of horse. I hit him a couple times left-handed and he switched leads and gutted it out. At the eighth pole, Mucho Macho Man was kind of gaining on him, and I pointed his head a little so he could see him and he dug back in.”
Hernandez will be back aboard Saturday when the 5-year-old makes his season debut against five foes in the one mile, Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
“It’s a good stepping stone bringing my horse back,” Wilkes said. “We’ve freshened him quite a bit since the Breeders’ Cup. We’ve been in a nice work pattern since. For me and my style, I thought it was a perfect race back for him.”
Fort Larned’s competitors include Todd Pletcher’s Discreet Dancer, who won an allowance after a year off, and Nick Zito’s Fort Loudon, winner of the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship Stakes.