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.