Fort Larned outdueled Mucho Macho Man in a thrilling mano amano during the stretch to take the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Game on Dude, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, was the heavy favorite for the race, but he was compromised by a stutter step at the start and lost any chance to win right there.
This allowed Fort Larned under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. to take the lead, followed closely by Mucho Macho Man with Mike Smith and To Honor and Serve with John Velazquez.
Game on Dude was bottled up behind horses as Alpha to his inside and Nonios to his outside kept him covered behind the leaders.
Hernandez with Fort Larned made a pull down the back, but Smith had none of it and allowed him to get his space and kept MuchoMacho Man relaxed.
As they started to reach the far turn, Game on Dude started to make a move on the outside, but Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man started to pull away from the field.
They entered the stretch and at a moment it looked like Mucho Macho Man would pass Fort Larned, but Hernandez dug deep and got FortLarned to react and maintain a half-length lead at the wire.
It was seven lengths to Flat Out in third, who had half a length in front of Ron the Greek, who came from way behind to finish fourth.
The two horses that had the most distance questions, Fort Larnedand Mucho Macho Man led the race from start to finish. Those questions came because by their records, they seem better suited for distances of up to nine furlongs.
For the jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., it was his first win and it came on his 27th birthday. It was also the first win for trainer Ian Wilkes.