Fort Larned, winless in his first two starts this year, notched his initial victory of 2013 in dominating fashion Saturday night at Churchill Downs in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap.
Trained by Ian Wilkes and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., Fort Larned took the lead shortly after the start from 9-5 favorite Take Charge Indy in the 1 1/8- mile stakes.
Fort Larned continued to set the pace up the backstretch. The 5-year-old was followed by Take Charge Indy, Successful Dan, Golden Ticket, defending race winner Ron the Greek and 2011 Foster champ Pool Play.
Sent off at 3-1 in the six-horse field, Fort Larned proved too strong as he pulled away down the stretch even as Golden Ticket moved into second, unable to challenge the leader.
Owned by Janis Whitham, Fort Larned went on to post a 6 1/4-length victory over Golden Ticket followed by Ron the Greek, 5-2 second pick Successful Dan, Pool Play and Take Charge Indy.
The time for the Stephen Foster Handicap was 1:47.45 on a fast track, less than one-fifth of a second off the stakes and track record for 1 1/8 miles of 1:47.28 established in 1999 by Victory Gallop.
Fort Larned gains automatic entry into this year's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita with the win.
After two disappointing starts to begin 2013, Fort Larned finally found the winner's circle for the first time since claiming last year's Breeders' Cup Classic.
The Foster win was worth $329,181 as the 5-year-old went over the $4 million mark in career earnings. Fort Larned has now won nine of 22 lifetime starts for $4,031,417.
The 5-year-old lost his rider, Hernandez, at the start of the Gulfstream Park Handicap to begin the 2013 campaign in March and was fifth in the Oaklawn Handicap on April 13.
Fort Larned paid $8.60, $5.20 and $3.60. Golden Ticket returned $7.20 and $3.40, and Ron The Greek paid $3.20 to show.