GULFSTREAM PARK SPRINT CHAMP. | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 7 FURLONGS
Jacks or Better Farm's Fort Loudon ended a couple of losing streaks when prevailing by a half-length in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship. The four-year-old colt won for the first time in six attempts over the Gulfstream main track, and simultaneously registered his first victory in seven starts since joining the barn of Hall of Famer Nick Zito last summer.
Pressing the pace while racing on the inside throughout the seven-furlong contest, Fort Loudon overtook 2-1 favorite Bahamian Squall inside the eighth pole and held off the late rally of 8-1 chance Swagger Jack while finishing up in 1:21 4/5 over a fast track under Jose Lezcano. The 7-2 third choice in a field of eight, Fort Loudon paid $9.60, $4.80 and $3.40.
"I told Jose to do whatever he had to do to keep him out of trouble even if it meant going to the lead, and he did," Zito said. "It was a game performance and great to win a race like this on Donn Day. I think it helped that he was coming off a distance race [1 1/8-mile Sunshine Millions Classic], but I think we'll probably keep him at seven-eighths to a mile for now."
Swagger Jack, who saved ground in mid-pack, swung outside for running room in the stretch and edged Bahamian Squall for second by a nose. It was another 2 1/2 lengths farther back to Close It Out in fourth.
The order of finish was rounded out by Good Morning Diva, Travelin Man, Fair Whit and Big Grandpa. The latter set an opening quarter split of :22 1/5, while Bahamian Squall was a head in front at the half-mile in :44 3/5.
Bred in Florida by his owner, Fort Loudon began his career under the tutelage of trainer Stanley Gold, for whom he swept the Dr. Fager, Affirmed and In Reality divisions of the Florida Stallion stakes series at two. Unplaced in his first four outings in open stakes company, the son of Awesome of Course concluded his time with Gold by winning three consecutive stakes -- the In Summation, Unbridled and Grade 3 Carry Back -- at Calder.
Transferred to the Zito barn ahead of the Saratoga meet, Fort Loudon finished a close second in the Grade 1 King's Bishop and later placed in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, Sunshine State and Sunshine Millions Classic. His record now stands at 21-8-3-3, $848,123.
Zito said Fort Loudon will stretch out to a mile for his next start in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 9.
Fort Loudon was produced by the multiple Grade 2-winning Lottsa Talc, a daughter of Talc who is also the second dam of multiple Grade 1 victor Jackson Bend. This female family has also yielded Tipica, a Group 1 winner in Argentina and noted South American producer.