Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned never got the chance to race in Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap when he lost his rider at the start. The one-mile race was going to be the 5-year-old's season debut.
Sent off as the 4-5 favorite versus five rivals, Fort Larned stumbled at the break and unseated jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. Taking the lead was Fort Loudon with 9-5 second pick Discreet Dancer on the outside.
As the field went up the backstretch, Fort Larned surged past the field notably absent a jockey. Sitting on the actual lead was Fort Loudon who was being pressed by Discreet Dancer and Swagger Jack.
"The second jump out of the gate, he stumbled badly and fell on his face. I don't know what else to say," said Hernandez, who was uninjured. "It's really weird because he warmed up better today than he did before the Classic. He was really on his toes. He did everything right until that moment."
Coming off the final turn, Discreet Dancer and jockey Javier Castellano took the lead leaving the field in their wake. Discreet Dancer drove through the stretch and registered a 5 1/4-length win over Swagger Jack.
Fort Loudon, the 9-2 third choice, was third followed by Gourmet Dinner and Decaf Again.
The time for the mile was 1:35.17 on a fast track.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Discreet Dancer notched his second straight win and fourth in five career starts. The victory was worth $180,000 to bring the 4- year-old's earnings to $313,150.
Owned by E. Paul Robsham Stables, the chestnut colt was third in last year's Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, but was sidelined until winning an optional claiming race last month.
"We were pleased with his first race back. We thought it was a good performance and we thought he'd move forward for this race. Obviously, we benefited from the bad luck for the Breeders' Cup Classic winner, but we're happy to win and we felt he was going to give us a good effort today," said Pletcher from Tampa Bay Downs, where he saddled undefeated Verrazano for a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Discreet Dancer paid $5.80, $4.00 and $4.40. Swagger Jack returned $4.80 and $5.80, and Fort Loudon paid $5.60 to show.