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Fort Larned escapes serious injury despite fall

Discreet Dancer (left) may have won the GP 'Cap, but Fort Larned was way ahead of him throughout the race (Joe Ganley/EquiSport Photos)

Trainer Ian Wilkes reported Sunday morning that Fort Larned came out of his fall at the start of the Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap with a grabbed quarter. Otherwise, the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic victor seemed to have escaped further injury after stumbling and falling heavily to the track in his five-year-old debut Saturday.

"He's walking good this morning," Wilkes said. "We'll keep a close eye on him a couple more days to make sure nothing else comes up. Otherwise, he looked good this morning. He grabbed a quarter. It wasn't too bad. It could have been a lot worse."

Two jumps out of the starting gate, Fort Larned, who was sent to post as the 4-5 favorite, stumbled badly and tumbled to the ground, unseating jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.

Hernandez emerged unscathed from that mishap and talked about it outside the jockeys' room at Fair Grounds shortly before Sunday's 1ST race.

"I'm fine today," he said. "I didn't get hurt at all. The only thing that was bruised was my pride. Ian called me last night to make sure I was all right. I told him I was fine and that I just hoped the horse was all right, too, and my only concern was for the horse. I thought that was a very nice thing for Ian to do. He's got a lot of class.

"You don't like to get started like that," Wilkes added. "Hopefully, we got all the bad luck out of the way and we just move ahead. You had this race mapped out for four months and you know your horse is on the top of his game and ready to run. It was just a bad step. He was too sharp out of the box. It's just one of those things in racing."

"This is a tough game," said Hernandez, who has been aboard Fort Larned for his past five races. "It's unbelievable that something like that can happen, but it does in racing. They tell me they clocked the horse in something like 1:30 for the mile. The horse ran huge without me."

As disheartening as he found the incident to be, Wilkes was able to count his blessings Sunday morning.

"How lucky do we get?" Wilkes asked. "The horse fell on his head; he's lucky he didn't really hurt himself. He could have ripped his whole heel off or he could have broken his leg. The way he fell, his whole head hit the ground."

Churchill Downs' spring meeting would be a likely spot for Fort Larned's return to action, but his trainer is concentrating on the immediate future with the son of E Dubai.

"I just want to make sure he's OK. The next few days we'll keep a close eye on him and we'll evaluate where we're at," Wilkes said. "You just want to be sure he's 110 percent before you start making plans."

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