Fort Pulaski's race career began on a high note, with wins in his first two races — a maiden special weight race in June, 2016, and an allowance race in July.
After that things waned for Fort Pulaski in his late campaign as a 3-year-old. Fort Pulaski then started 2017 with a third place in the Premier Night Championship in February at Delta Downs. He then contracted a stomach virus that shut him down until July, with more winless racing to follow.
However, Fort Pulaski won his most recent race, the Mr. Sulu Overnight Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Nov. 18. Trainer Danny Pish said all connected to the horse are hoping this is the start of something big. When the Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes is run on Saturday, Pish would like to see another big win.
“It does mean a little bit more when you've got a horse that got everbody excited early on, got sick and got everybody worried for a while, and then made the rebound, the comeback,” Pish said.
Fort Pulaski, who will break from the No. 6 gate, is the 3-1 morning-line second favorite to Trust Factor, whom Fort Pulaski beat in the Mr. Sulu by ⅜ of a length. Pish said he understands why Trust Factor is the 8-1 favorite.
“Trust Factor has more consisently found the winner's circle. Where Pulaski hadn't won in quite some time — until he won the Mr. Sulu,” Pish said. “Trust Factor is what we call a hard-knocking horse because he's a very consistent horse.
“Pulaski is an improving horse, but Trust Factor is the man. He's been a dominant horse in (turf races) for some time, and we barely beat him that time. So, I understand why he's the favorite. But, we're hoping to pull the upset one more time.”
Trust Factor, like Fort Pulaski a 4-year-old colt, had won an allowance race at Keeneland on Oct. 14. Before that, he was fourth in an Arlington Park allowance.
Trust Factor, a strong horse, trained by Michael Maker and ridden by Robby Albarado, likes to be on or near the lead and grinds his way through.
Another horse who bears watching is Extra Credit, 5-1, who is trained by Brian Cox and will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan. And, Jack Sniper's, a 12-1 shot trained by Gary Scherer, will be ridden by Florent Geroux, the Fair Grounds' leading jockey last season.
Fort Pulaski, who has A.P. Indy in his bloodlines, is a tall, athletic horse who likes to come off the pace, Pish said. In the Mr. Sulu win, he came out of Gate 1, settled in mid-pack during the second turn, then swung out and overtook his rivals, including Trust Factor, in the stretch.
Fort Pulaski's appearance has been the reason for patience and hope concerning him and also dispair.
“With any horse that I plan on continuing with, I'm going to be patient with them, because you have to,” Pish said. “It's a little easier to be patient when you see a lot of upside potential in a horse like we saw in him. We had seen some things that we really, really liked.
“He's a very handsome horse. Physically, he meets the measurements, tall, good-looking horse. He'd already won three races before he got sick, so he'd shown some ability.”
Pish likes that he will break from the sixth hole in Saturday's race.
“For his style, the sixth should be even better,” Pish said. “That's an even better spot for a closer. He hasn't found the winner's circle lately, but he's won good races.
“He's a big, long-striding horse that comes off the pace. He doesn't come from the (rear) and come flying like some horses. He usually comes from midpack and just keeps coming, keeps coming.”