10/05/2014 1:04PM

Watchmaker: Put Wise Dan's latest win in proper perspective

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I have said it before, and at the rate he’s going, I will say it again, probably a few times. Although greatness is very much in the eye of the beholder, what is indisputably great about Wise Dan is how he has operated at a very high level for an extended period of time.

It has been three years – three years! – since Wise Dan has finished worse than second. Including his victory in Saturday’s Shadwell Turf Mile, Wise Dan has made 19 starts over that span, 18 of them in Grade 1 and 2 events, had one abdominal surgery, and won 17 of those starts. In an age when horses lose form after a race or two, this really is a remarkable achievement.

For this reason alone, Wise Dan deserves our respect and admiration.

That said, the reaction following Wise Dan’s win Saturday, which in some quarters seemed to border on hysterical, mystifies me. I understand everyone likes to get behind a winner. And like everyone else, I, too, saw Wise Dan miss the break in the Shadwell. But in a game that puts a premium on objective analysis, Wise Dan’s victory Saturday was an odd one to go gaga over.

The reason is simple. Once Seek Again, who was by far Wise Dan’s most serious challenger Saturday, was taken out of the picture by being taken up sharply in the stretch (more on that in a moment), it left Wise Dan with an inferior field to beat by any measure.

With Seek Again off the table, Wise Dan’s task in the late stages was to overtake Grand Arch and Sayaad. Grand Arch was beaten only a neck in the Fourstardave at Saratoga prior to a tired fifth in what was this year a sub-par Woodbine Mile last time out, and it was only that close in the Fourstardave because Seek Again overcame many lengths of trouble to win. And Sayaad previously made three graded stakes starts, and failed to hit the board in any of them.

As for Seek Again, who missed in a photo to Wise Dan on Kentucky Derby Day in his first start this year, and who has improved since, he stayed inside to mount whatever stretch challenge he had in him in the Shadwell. But in deep stretch, he was taken up by jockey Joel Rosario, and angled to the outside, losing all chance.

On the pan shot of the race, it looks like Seek Again was badly shut off on the rail. But on the head-on view of the stretch run, it is plainly clear that there was ample room on the rail for Seek Again at the point that path was oddly abandoned.

It is pure guesswork to say Seek Again would have or could have beaten Wise Dan if he went on through the opening on the rail. What isn’t guesswork is, when Seek Again was eliminated, it left Wise Dan with one of the easier fields he has had to beat in his three-year run.

Pletcher wins pair of stakes for 2-year-olds

It must be very nice to be Todd Pletcher. Losing a brilliant 2-year-old male like Hopeful winner Competitive Edge for the remainder of the season to, thankfully, minor injury would take the wind out of the sails of many barns. But Pletcher, instead comes up with two others like Daredevil and Carpe Diem, winners of the Champagne and Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity on Saturday, respectively, off first out maiden wins.

Daredevil and Carpe Diem were both impressive, decisive winners, but there are distinctions between the two. Daredevil ran faster (a preliminary Beyer Figure of 107 to 91 for Carpe Diem), but Carpe Diem won on a fast track, and around two turns at a  1 1/16-mile distance he is bred to only get warmed up.. Both of Daredevil’s wins now have been on wet tracks, so he has something to prove when he finally gets on a dry surface. But by all accounts, Daredevil trains like the real deal on fast tracks.

Unfortunately, the 2-year-old fillies were not nearly as compelling in Friday’s Darley Alcibiades or Saturday’s Frizette. Peace and War, making her U.S. debut, took the Alcibiades in a 23-1 upset, and By the Moon landed the Frizette in a 24-1 upset. The Alcibiades was a race that totally fell apart late (a final five-sixteenths in 33.93 seconds), and the Frizette was a stagger fest home (final quarter in 27.94 seconds), resulting in modest winning Beyers of only 81 and 78 respectively.

* Rich Tapestry coming from Hong Kong and winning the Santa Anita Sprint Championship off an April layoff over the winners of two of last year’s Breeders’ Cup races is quite a feat. Still, Dirt Mile winner Goldencents noticeably pulled himself up after opening a clear lead in midstretch, and Sprint winner Secret Circle performed like he was desperately in need of his first start since February.

* Dayatthespa reaffirmed her affinity for Keeneland’s turf with her victory in the First Lady. The win pushed Dayatthespa’s career earnings well past the million-dollar mark, not bad for a New York- bred.

 

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