10/06/2013 12:29PM

Wise Dan, and Other Weekend Notes

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While the rest of us react in different ways to Wise Dan's loss to Silver Max in Saturday's off-the-turf Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, perhaps we should take a breath and pay closer attention to how Charles LoPresti took it. As trainer of the 2012 Horse of the Year, no one is closer to Wise Dan than LoPresti. So he had more right than anyone after the Shadwell to offer excuses, and even be defensive if he chose to be, especially considering the circumstances that surrounded the race. Only about an hour before off time, heavy rain forced the Shadwell off the turf and onto a wet Polytrack. Requiring Horses of the Year to change on the fly like this happens like, about, never.

Instead, LoPresti presented no excuses. Good for him. It's refreshing to see a trainer of a major horse decline to offer excuses when their charge doesn't win. And in this particular case, it was nice that no excuses were offered for Wise Dan not being able to do better than second, because Wise Dan didnt have any.

The switch off the turf, as late as it was, should have only benefited Wise Dan. He romped in the Ben Ali and Fayette in his last two starts on Keeneland's main track, and his five synthetic track wins (from seven career starts) were only three shy of the rest of the field combined. Wise Dan had dead aim on Silver Max from the far turn on, and at level weights, to boot. And while Silver Max has gotten good again, until Saturday, he never was Grade 1 good. This time, Wise Dan was just second best. In case we forgot, he isn't a machine.

But more than seeing a win streak come to an end at nine, or having a less-than-ideal final prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile, the biggest impact of Wise Dan losing Saturday will be on his chances to repeat as Horse of the Year.

Wise Dan was an unconventional Horse of the Year last year. He did his work as a turf miler, and that makes him a niche horse, even if he is capable in other areas. Traditionally, niche horses don't get Horse of the Year, though Wise Dan proved an exception because he was less imperfect than 2012's other flawed Horse of the Year candidates.

This year, however, there has been backlash over Wise Dan's conservative campaign. There have been complaints about it not being more than a virtual repeat of his 2012 schedule, and it not being worthy of a defending Horse of the Year. And when you add to this mix a disappointing loss on a main track he is known to love, in a race in which everything pointed his way, you can understand how Saturday's defeat might be an especially damaging one for Wise Dan.

A few other quick thoughts on the weekend action, starting with Keeneland:

Groupie Doll's connections were also classy in defeat after Saturday's TCA Stakes, offering no excuses for their mare's no excuse third to Judy the Beauty. Groupie Doll was last year's champion female sprinter, and I know it is always dangerous to underestimate a champion, but Groupie Doll just doesn't seem like the same horse this year.

I would love for someone to explain to me how the Dixiana Breeders' Futurity, renewed on Saturday, and the Darley Alcibiades, run on opening day Friday, remain Grade 1 races. These used to be important races when they were run on dirt, but are a shell of themselves since Keeneland went to Polytrack. We Miss Artie is a turf horse, and to date, not an especially good one, but he romped over 11 opponents in the Breeders' Futurity. My Conquestadory, a pretty nice turf horse considering she beat males in the Summer Stakes in her racing debut, worked through traffic to best a very iffy group in the Alcibiades.

I miss the days when track announcers focused on telling you where the horses were and kept the editorializing to a minimum. Despite what the Keeneland announcer would have you think, My Conquestadory did not show in the Alcibiades that she is the Second Coming. Not with her 74 winning Beyer Figure. Not against that field. Not yet, anyway. But I do believe it is possible for track announcers to be entertaining and insightful. Just don't proclaim how great a horse is in the heat of the moment. That's a low percentage game.

Belmont:

Havana and Honor Code, the one-two finishers in Saturday's Champagne, are two very, very nice horses, and there is much to like about both. Havana did all the dirty work in the Champagne, forcing and then contesting a fast early pace. So when you also consider that he was stretching out from 5.5 furlongs in his only other start to a mile, it was understandable that Havana tired a little late, but he held grimly.

As for Honor Code, he proved he is not a wet track creation, and he might have got up in the Champagne had he not been floated out to Hempstead Turnpike at the top of the stretch. You know Honor Code is going to love all the distance he can get. I just hope that with experience, he gets himself more into the game early.

Strong Mandate, the Hopeful winner, was a profound disappointment in the Champagne, finishing a distant seventh. Unlike Wise Dan and Groupie Doll, the excuse of not handling the track was offered for Strong Mandate.

You dont want to take anything away from Artemis Agrotera, who stepped up from a blowout win over New York breds in her debut at Saratoga to prevail in Saturday's Frizette. But really, the Frizette was all about the race Sweet Reason, the Spinaway winner, ran finishing second. Five lengths? Eight lengths? Take your pick. That was about how many lengths Sweet Reason lost with her duck in at the start. She is a beast, and she also proved Saturday that she is much more than a wet track horse.

I don't have much to say about Saturday's Jamaica Handicap, won by Up With the Birds, other than these two things: Let's not confuse the highly competitive and deep field this edition of the Jamaica drew with it being a Grade 1 quality field. They are two different things, and the Jamaica is still not a true Grade 1 race. And I found it highly amusing that Get in Line, who was entered as a rabbit for runner up Admiral Kitten, went right to the front, and then promptly slowed the pace down to 25.34, 49.98, and 1:13.76. What was that about?

Santa Anita:

For much of the year, the male sprint division has been uninspiring. But things are definitely looking up. Last week, Private Zone stepped up with a determined Vosburgh win, and on Saturday, Points Offthebench and Goldencents ran big finishing one-two (just as they did in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar) in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship. I really like Points Offthebench's ability to stalk and pounce. And while we know Goldencents can go two turns (he did win the Santa Anita Derby and Sham early this year), the decision by his connections to focus on sprinting was a clever one.

First Wise Dan lost, and then Obviously followed suit with a weak fourth in the City of Hope Mile. Less than a week ago, these two were America's two best hopes for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

papajoe el papi More than 1 year ago
what happen in keeneland with wise Dan was inexcusable why did they waited in short period of time to switch the shadwells & the trainer should had scratch the horse but he did not & he will regret not scratching him he will lose at the breeders cup folks we have remember that wise Dan is no secretariat or john Henry for that matter he should have giving him a break because now they know that he's tailing a bit horses like W.D. need their breaks,i for one think that silver max is good horse but will never beat wise Dan in the turf & I will never again ply in keeneland that is polytrack & if it rain a little bit the change races right away & its all for the safety of the horses & jockeys but also for their pockets fool once shame on me fool me twice shame on oyu.
Ann More than 1 year ago
Because the 1.5 inches of rain occurred in the middle of the afternoon, ending barely an hour or so before the scheduled start. Come on, the track folks are supposed to be clairvoyant? Knowing that rain is coming is one thing - knowing that the rain will be monsoon-like in your particular locale is not possible ahead of time.
papajoe el papi More than 1 year ago
I meant to say that we don't have any good horses anymore those days are gone for ever folks
papajoe el papi More than 1 year ago
folks that race were wise Dan lost my questions is why did the trainer scratch him wise Dan even if he had won before in this polytrack he had not race in polytrack for a while,& remember that he's 7 years old he's no john Henry or secretariat its only about 3 weeks before the breeders cup silver max is good horse but not the caliber of wiseDan ,I predict that wise Dan will lose on breeders cup day,the trainer should have skp that race so he could have a fresh horse but noooooooo he's greed took over.also a will never play again in keenland since I handicap only on the turf ,& for THOSE who think that polytrrck is the same as turf,THINK again is made out of crap rubber.we really don't any good horses those days are gone for good,the fields in grade stakes are dismal I for one would not bet on fields like that except for the pick 4 or the pick 6 other than that I would not touch them
Ian Chef King More than 1 year ago
Some thing is amidst here any one who don't thing Silver Max is a top two turf miler it's base purely on class handicapping! I've predicted Silver Max would possibly beat Wise Dan in the BC before they were entered in the Shadwell. A look back at my twitter account would show that! Class is not fool proof reliable speed figures and a good eye for performance is my best guide!
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
when a horse like silver max beats a horse like wise dan somethings off...either dan is seriously tailing off or was not fully cranked for this or j.v went easy on him..but that still does not explain how others in the race did not pick up a leg.....groupie doll is a completely different story she has lost a step theres no doubt about that...royal delta was beaten by a rising star who could possibly better her record so that was normal....but there have been some inexplicable results.
J_Dinks More than 1 year ago
"I would love for someone to explain to me how the Dixiana Breeders' Futurity, renewed on Saturday, and the Darley Alcibiades, run on opening day Friday, remain Grade 1 races. These used to be important races when they were run on dirt, but are a shell of themselves since Keeneland went to Polytrack." Under that line of logic, the assumption is that no race over that surface qualifies for Graded status. The Ashland shouldn't be graded? If there can be graded races for other classes over the surface that you seemingly accept, why not for juveniles?
Kenny More than 1 year ago
Connections of KING KREESA bonehead move of year going in Joe Hirsch....read my lips the horse coulda (maybe still can but less likely after that 1 1/2 debacle) won BC Mile....his internal fractions are crazy goodtwo turn sit and pounce he could get first run with perfect timed ride but now who knows
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Finger Lakes based trainer. What did you expect?
bambino More than 1 year ago
I'm glad Wise Dan got beat. This will help my price in Breeders Cup, if anyone doesn't think this horse is not the best TURF MILER in the world, you get your chance Breeders Cup Why when we we breed the best dirt speed in the WORLD, is Keenland POLLYTRACK ?
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
If Wise Dan is the best TURF MILER (love the caps) in the world, why not go over to Europe and show them who the boss is, as so many wanted Frankel to come here, silly as that was. I'll just give you the bad news now and save you the trouble of talking them into it. Dan would get nothing but his hat handed to him over there.
Jeff Steffen More than 1 year ago
Says who? Excelebration? Moonlight Cloud?
Renuncia Cupelluni More than 1 year ago
The deluge this last weekend is a good explantion for why Keeneland is polytrack.
Frank Leverone More than 1 year ago
Goldenscents does not seem all that interested in catching horses in the stretch. He seems much gamer when he is in front turning for home and sees horses coming after him. Mile or Mile and 1/16 maybe would help.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Doesn't seeem that interested, He would have had to run 1.07 and change to win. He was 4 clear of the 3rd horse. He ran his eyeballs out.
matt More than 1 year ago
Mike, I find it kind of humorous that you ask for track announcers to not anoint horses the next coming during the race then you call Sweet Reason a "beast" in the following paragraph. If you go just off of previous race record, My Conquestadory beat a "better" field than what Sweet Reason finished second against. By my count, both horses were 8 lengths after after 1/4. Both encountered a bit of trouble in the running of the race, but My Conquestadory was able to overcome that and run away from the field. Meanwhile, it looked to me that Sweet Reason was in a great spot turning for home and could not quicken with the winner.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
You really should go back and look at the Frizette replay, particularly the start, plus a head on if you can. If you saw the race, and saw how Sweet Reason spotted the field a five to eight length head start by ducking in sharply out of the gate, you would never say she could not quicken with the winner. Sweet Reason was miles the best. Otherwise, if you feel the Alcibiades field was better than the Frizette field, well, I don't know what to say about that other than I strongly disagree.
matt More than 1 year ago
I watched the race both live and on replay. Alex put her in a good position after that and both times I've seen the reply, I thought she was going to run by them all and she didn't. I just believe that she has not reached "beast" status yet, that is all.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Here's my take on Sweet Reason. I would bet her in a race against the best 2 yr old colts in the country. The sweet reason for that is favorable odds and an outstanding chance she would win. What nobody seemed to notice is that she ran very similar fractions as Honor Code did from the quarter pole to the wire, and she would easily get first jump on him.