By Jim Misunas
Fort Larned, the thoroughbred champion in the $5 Million Breeders’ Cup Classic, boasts a Kansas connection.
The horse’s owner is 80-year-old Janice Whitham, whose family operates Whitham Farms Feed Yard in Leoti. Stewart Whitham, one of her sons, is vice president of Whitham Farms Feed Yard.
Fort Larned led wire-to-wire and beat runner-up Mucho Macho Man by a half of a length to earn $2.7 million Saturday at Santa Anita Park at Arcadia, Calif. Fort Larned raced at 9-to-1 odds. More than $99 million was wagered on the Breeders Cup Classic.
Janice said the horse is indeed named after Fort Larned National Historic Site.
“Fort Larned is still there and he is named after that fort,” she said. “We live in Kansas and it’s east and south of us. It has been rebuilt, and it’s a tourist attraction. And he has a half brother named after an old fort north of us — Fort Wallace.”
Brian Hernandez was the winning jockey and Ian Wilkes was the winning trainer. Janis Whitham is the horse’s owner and breeder. She was joined by her sons, Clay and Barth Whitham, on the winner’s stand at Santa Anita. Calif.The Whithams are parents to four sons, Jeff, Stewart, Barth and Clay and a daughter Jennifer.
Mrs. Whitham said she was interested in entering Fort Larned in the 2013 Breeders Cup Classic if all goes well.
Mrs. Whitham and her late husband, Frank, were owners of Bayakoa, the champion in the 1989 Breeders Cup Distaff at Gulfstream Park and the 1990 Breeders Cup Distaff at Belmont Park, N.Y. The 1990 race featured a tragic finish that saw contender Go For Wand, a 3-year-old filly, break a leg and had to be destroyed.
The Whithams paid a $250,000 entry fee and earned $450,000 for the Breeders Cup victories in 1989 and 1990.
Frank Whitham, a horse breeder and banker, died in a 1993 plane crash near Goodland en route to Montana. Pilot Wilford Palen, and co-pilot Bill Tucker, also died after they reported they had missed the Goodland airport and intened to fly to McCook, Neb., the Federal Aviation Administration reported.
Mr. Whitham was chairman of Western State Bank in Garden City, First State Bank in Leoti, and First National Bank in Lamar, Colo. Tucker and Palen were from Scott City, where the flight originated.