Fort Larned Sister Triumphs in G3 Matron Stakes

05.21.2017 -

Walkabout has mostly been known as the little half-sister to 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned. But after Saturday’s $100,000 Matron Stakes at Churchill Downs, she can now be regarded as a graded stakes winner.

Unleashing a furious rally down the center of the track under Brian Hernandez Jr., Walkabout got up in the closing strikes to catch Improv by a neck in the Grade 3 Matron, a race that had formerly been run as the Arlington Matron before it was moved from Arlington to Churchill Downs this year.

Other than in pedigree, late-running Walkabout is a different horse than the speedy Fort Larned, who preferred to be prominently placed in his races. She rated 17 lengths off the leaders in the Matron, as Improv set lively splits of 47.03 seconds and 1:11.57 in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Even at the six-furlong stage Walkabout seemed to have too much left to do to win, still in ninth with nearly eight lengths to make up, but Improv began to grow fatigued, and none of the others in the field, including favored Curlin’s Approval, were doing much to threaten.

Walkabout, a 4-year-old daughter of Stroll bred and owned by Whitham Thoroughbreds, raced 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.06, paying $12 as the third favorite in the field of 11.

Winning trainer Ian Wilkes said the key to Walkabout has been learning how she prefers to race. For much of last year she was being placed only a few lengths off the leaders.
“She didn’t want any part of that,” he said. “She made us understand how she wanted to run. She wanted to be patient and finish off a race.”

A larger test may lie ahead for Walkabout with Churchill positioning the Matron as a prep for the Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur De Lis on Stephen Foster Night, June 17.

- edited from, photo by Coady

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