Ex-pat Australian trainer Ian Wilkes has claimed a famous victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita with Fort Larned who led all the away in North America’s richest race.
Fort Larned fought off Mucho Macho Man in a duel down the straight to win the $US5 ($A4.83 million) Classic by half a length with favourite Game On Dude seventh.
Wilkes’ proud brother Wayne, who trains at Port Macquarie, said his 47-year-old sibling had been in the United States for the best part of 25 years and had worked hard to reach the top with Fort Larned’s win a thrill for the whole family.
“Ian left school when he was 16 to work with horses,” Wilkes said.
“He was always very ambitious and started out with Paul Sutherland and Vic Thompson before going to Colin Hayes at Lindsay Park Stud.
“He then went to work for Carl Nafzger in Kentucky. He came back here for a while but Carl asked him to go back.
“I watched the race live and I have it on tape so I can watch it again. It was pretty exciting.”
Ian Wilkes told reporters after the race, the victory was the “ultimate”.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic capped two days of premier racing with $25 million on offer.
After working as Nafzger’s right hand man, Ian Wilkes took over the bulk of the trainer’s team when Nafzger went into semi-retirement in 2006.
Wayne Wilkes has also enjoyed success on a smaller scale at Port Macquarie, training mainly for Les Tinkler.
Although not on the same level as the Breeders’ Cup, King Utah’s win in a 2400 metre race at Warwick Farm last Wednesday week, was a triumph.
“To travel from Port Macquarie to Sydney, I have to have one good enough to win,” he said.
“Things are going all right here too.”