THE MODERATOR: Looks like we're set to go here. Joined by the winning connections of Fort Larned, winner of the $5 Million Breeders' Cup Classic, and congratulations all of you. We're joined by Brian Hernandez. I understand it's a happy birthday for Brian; victorious trainer, Ian Wilkes, the winning owner and breeder of Fort Larned, Janis Whitham and family. I know we have Clay and Barth Whitham, a family affair up on stage.
Ian, your first Breeders' Cup win. Congratulations and you picked a great spot, $5 Million Breeders' Cup Classic. Your horse ran one of the signature races of the year in the Whitney and now he came back with every bit as good with this performance. Talk about any challenges there were in taking that strong Kentucky/New York form and bringing it out west.
IAN WILKES: When you got a horse, you know, that keeps getting better and better every time you take him over there, it makes my job easier. The thing about it every time this horse went in the gate, he's always brought his "A" race for us.
From the Whitney, I had to make a decision how to get him to the Breeders' Cup. I had to make a decision whether I run back in the Woodward or wait 8 weeks to freshen him, then go to the Jockey Club and bring him to the Breeders' Cup. Mrs. Whitham and the family decided to go the second route and the horse came back to his Whitney form today and that's what we were looking for.
Q. Brian how old are you now?
BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR.: 27, Fort Larned gave us the greatest birthday present ever.
Q. Take us through the trip. It looked like you made the lead comfortably, looked like you weren't having to ask all that much, but you did get a challenge late in the race.
BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR.: Yeah, we did. In the post parade he showed how fired up he was. He was on his game today. We kept him away from the pony and warmed him up good.
When he left the gate, he knew it was business time and he left there as well as he did. And you can't take anything away from him. He's going to be naturally fast and that's what we let him do. Going into the second turn he was able to sprint away from that other horse and he held off the horses down the stretch.
Q. Mrs. Whitham, how does this compare with the two wins by Bayakoa?
JANIS WHITHAM: It's great, couldn't compare any better. It's great.
Q. There was so much buzz about other horses this week, Game On Dude and Bill Mott's three strong contenders, did you guys start to feel overlooked?
IAN WILKES: It's always nice to fly under the radar and not be with the bull's eye on your back, so that helps. No one, I don't think, was too worried about us coming off our last race. We could do what we wanted to do and ‑‑ without having that bull's eye.
BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR.: Riding for these guys has been great because they don't put any pressure on me. And going into a race like this we didn't have the bull's eye on our back, so we were able to let our horse do what he wanted to do, and that's what we did today.
Q. Ian, you worked under Carl Nafzger for a long time. Did you take a page from his book preparing him for this race?
IAN WILKES: Very much, yeah. This one is for Carl, Wanda, for our family, everyone, Tracy, Shelby, Brody; but when you learn from someone like Carl, when he points a horse for a race and you focus in on one race ‑‑ he was a master at doing that, keeping him going and pointing him.
You've got to have him 110 percent on that day, and he was a master at it. I'm glad it worked out today because I can tell him I did it.
Q. First, Mrs. Whitham, could you explain the origin of the name Fort Larned?
JANIS WHITHAM: Yes, Larned is a town. We live in Kansas and it's east and a little north of us and it has been rebuilt, and it's a tourist attraction, and Fort Larned is still there and he is named after that fort. And he has a half brother named after an old fort north of us, Fort Wallace.
Q. Another question, no doubt you took note of the fine performances by horses like Groupie Doll and Wise Dan. We want to know if there was Kentucky karma going on today.
IAN WILKES: Yeah, I had a lot of pressure because Buff and Charlie and I were together last week and before we came out we said we have to get a trifecta and when them two held up their part there was pressure on me to hold up my part. (Chuckles).
Q. When you were drawing this up before the race, was gate‑to‑wire the plan?
IAN WILKES: No. Well, maybe. It could be. The most important thing I told Brian was the break. We have to get out of the gate. If we miss the break we're dead. We can't win. We have to get out of gate good and we can't be pinned down inside; we have to be out of there, goin' and then ride the race from there.
That's what he did. He made a great move coming out of the gate and we were fortunate that Game On Dude broke a step slow and he (Fort Larned) was able to get out instead of being tucked down on the inside down the back stretch, instead of being dictated to, we were able to dictate the race.
Q. Brian, could you go over when you got here, what you did most of the day? And also, somebody told me who didn't think he knew what he was talking about that you got kicked in the head by a horse.
BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR.: No, I got kicked on the other side, the back side. That happened on Thursday. We got out here last night about midnight. We went out to the barn this morning and saw the horse and saw Ian and the Whithams, and we hung out and to see Santa Anita and waited for our race today.
Q. Going for home you began racing against Mike Smith and he was breathing down your neck, but it looked like you were gaining.
BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR.: He was gaining on us, but when he seen the horse coming he dug back in and even galloping out, Mucho Macho Man wasn't able to get past us.
Q. Brian, have you ever ridden here at Santa Anita before?
BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR.: This was our first mount here at Santa Anita. I've been here one other time and this was our first mount over it.
Q. Brian, how would you describe your career to this point and can this be the kind of career‑altering triumph for you?
BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR.: This is definitely career altering. If someone told me in May I was riding a Breeders' Cup horse much less winning it, I would have told them they were crazy, and just being here is a great opportunity and I have to thank the Whithams for sticking us on this horse.
Q. Mrs. Whitham, any thoughts as to what 2013 holds for Fort Larned?
JANIS WHITHAM: Well, we will let Ian decide that, but we would like to run him and try to do this again.
Q. Ian, I'm sure that is fine with you?
IAN WILKES: Of course.
Q. Ian, does Brian seem to have a certain fit with this horse that you've discovered?
IAN WILKES: Yeah, yeah. With this horse, you got to trust him. You've got to trust this horse. You've got to let him do what he wants to do in a way, but don't let him, but you got to let him do it, if that makes sense. Brian has a knack with him. They get on great together and hoping we can keep on going.
THE MODERATOR: All right, well, keep on going, indeed, is what Fort Larned did today. Terrific win which caps an outstanding season for your horse, Brian, Ian, Janis, Barth and Clay Whitham, congratulations, the winner of the $5 Million Breeders' Cup Classic.
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