SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) - Fort Larned rallied strongly in the final quarter-mile to win the $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap by 1¼ lengths over favorite Ron the Greek at Saratoga on Saturday.
The 4-year-old Fort Larned stalked a strong pace before launching a decisive move that carried him to the wire in 1:47.76. The Ian Wilkes-trained winner paid $16.40, $7 and $4.30. Fort Larned, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., has won four of seven races this year and earned $450,000 for owner Janis R. Whitham.
"On the second turn I knew I had a lot of horse," Hernandez said. "I just stayed out of his way and he toted us around there and took us home. I had a lot of confidence in him today."
Wilkes said that while his confidence in Fort Larned was shaken after a dull effort in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, the Sept. 1 Woodward Stakes is now under consideration as an immediate objective.
"This is a free-running horse. He can do a lot of things," Wilkes said. "I always thought he belonged (at the top of) the division. You question yourself coming off a race like the Stephen Foster. You got beat. You got your head handed to you there. So you question yourself. But this horse keeps rattling off those (high speed figures). He stays consistent."
Ron the Greek returned $3.90 and $2.90, and Flat Out was third and returned $3.40 to show.
Earlier, Emma's Encore ($12.40) won a tight photo-finish over Judy the Beauty in the $300,000, Grade 1 Prioress Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The winner is trained by Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens.