08/12/2013 8:38AM

Wise Dan, and Other Weekend Thoughts

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Somewhat lost in the debate over Wise Dan’s campaign this year, and whether it is worthy of a reigning Horse of the Year, is this possibility: Races like the Fourstardave, Firecracker, and Woodbine Mile are precisely the kinds of races Wise Dan should be running in, even if they don’t resonate with a Horse of the Year ring.

What else would you have Wise Dan do? I understand that he won the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on dirt, and that was a terrific effort. But that Clark victory was also almost 21 months ago. Wise Dan’s one other attempt in a Grade 1 race on dirt was in last year’s Stephen Foster Handicap, and that was not a strong performance. Yeah, Wise Dan finished second in that Foster, beaten only a head. But that race devolved into an absolute stagger-fest through the stretch, with Wise Dan searching for oxygen as much as anyone else in that field.

It’s all conjecture, of course, but it’s hardly a stretch to think Wise Dan wouldn’t be on the eight race win streak he is currently riding had he had a more ambitious campaign this year. Given the way he performed, I think Fort Larned would have had Wise Dan for lunch in this year’s Foster. I doubt Wise Dan would have reeled in Cross Traffic in the Whitney, and with the way the Woodward is shaping up, I think he would have been up against it in that race, too. And while the Pacific Classic would have been an inspired spot given his affinity for synthetic surfaces, Wise Dan does not look like he wants any part of going the 10 furlongs he would have to go in that spot.

What a few folks seem to be forgetting is Wise Dan became Horse of the Year after a 2012 campaign when there were no ideal Horse of the Year candidates. Let’s be honest, wins in the Ben Ali, Fourstardave, Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Turf Mile, and Breeders’ Cup Mile wouldn’t be close to good enough for Horse of the Year honors in most years. But last year, it was good enough for a very fortunate Wise Dan, and for most Eclipse Award voters, including yours truly.

The problem here is, Wise Dan is being saddled with conventional Horse of the Year expectations despite not being a conventional Horse of the Year.

As for Wise Dan’s performance in Saturday’s Fourstardave at Saratoga, it was, of course, terrific. I think weight is a ridiculously overblown factor in handicapping, and I do not understand why fellow horseplayers agonize over a three or four pound weight shift in the case of 1,200 pound race horses. But the 129 pounds Wise Dan carried in this Fourstardave was a substantial impost (in today’s game), and the 12 pounds he conceded to the much improved and loose-on-the-lead King Kreesa was a meaningful concession. Obviously, that is why Wise Dan’s effort a terrific one.

Groupie Doll wasn’t as successful Saturday, finishing third in the Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park as the 1-5 favorite. Groupie Doll looked very rusty to me in her first start in nine months, and I would be shocked if last year’s female sprint champ doesn’t take a huge step forward off this outing.

No one was more impressive over the weekend than Tiz Flirtatious. Her win in Sunday’s John C. Mabee at Del Mar was a MONSTER performance.

The jury is still out as to how good Fiftyshadesofgold really is. But if she were my filly (and I’d love to have her), I would still be fuming over the ride she got in Sunday’s Adirondack at Saratoga. Brutal.

Ann More than 1 year ago
Tiz Flirtatious ran in a European-style turf race at Del Mar last weekend; they cantered along until the half-mile pole, then sprinted to the finish, and Tiz Fl. had a better turn of foot. In a pace with a strong pace, her kick might not have been as impressive. But overall a good year for relatives of Tiznow - Tiz Flirtatious was sired by his brother Tizbud, while Paynter and Oxbox are sons of his full sisters Tizso and Tizamazing, respectively.
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
I certainly remember Curlin losing to two European MILERS and Tiago in 2008 in the BC Classic(uh, that would make him 4th), when Zenyatta won every race she ran, including the BC Distaff & somehow Curlin got HOY. No one, except me found THAT to be controversial. Right, jttf?
rdeeps52 More than 1 year ago
Mike, agree with most of your points on Wise Dan, but one. I see zero reason why this horse can't get 10F on turf or synth. His 9F races have been as impressive as his miles imo.
Wabstat More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan may not be the greatest HOY, but he ranks above Zenyatta who won the award without winning an open G1 race.
jttf More than 1 year ago
when grading horses for hoty these days. you must first recognize that 2012 results are included with your analysis. remember zenyatta somehow beating blame in 2010 ? so that means we can include wise dan destroying fort larned on the dirt while carrying 6 more pounds. that means we include a record breaking synthetic beyer rating. ask the grading committee how the fourstardave stakes race isnt a grade 1 race. the shoemaker and maker 46 miles on turf only have a purses of $300,000. the fourstardave has a purse of $500,000 and races against the best quality horses at saratoga. how are those 2012 breeders cup mile competitors doing this year ? animal kingdom won the richest race in the world. obviously looked very sharp in his latest grade 1 victory. moonlight cloud is 3 for 3 this year, that includes 2 group 1 victories. dont pay any attention to the 128 and 129 pounds carried by wise dan. how far back in time do we have to go to see a horse that toted that in back to back races ? how is wise dan ranked by the foreign handicappers this year ? when you have johnny v. on his back, the horse relaxes better. this horse is improving in that regard every year. he could win the classic if it were run at churchill. because he would have even weights and no speed bias.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Some great points. I don't think a speed bias would hinder Wise Dan at 10 panels. He has good tactical speed and a great turn of foot. I just wonder if he would tire late. It would've exciting as heck if he tried it but I would probably have to bet against him, although it would be hard not to root for him too.
edb More than 1 year ago
Disagree about Wise Dan not reeling in the wandering Cross Traffic. No real closers in the Whitney. HOY so wide open and definitely not a 3 year old unless you like Princess of Slymar. Got to have Dan in top three again this year until somebody does something.
B More than 1 year ago
It's too early to make a statement like that about three year olds. If Orb, Palace Malice or Verrazano should win the Travers, Woodward, JCGC & BC Classic or some combination of most, they would win HOY. Orb is particularly in a good spot if he should win the Travers & BC Classic as the Derby holds a lot of value in many eyes, but he has to step up to the plate. I also don't think Wise Dan is the leading candidate for HOY at this point in Time. I think that if it were given out today, Game on Dude would win hands down. Still have a lot of time for all sorts of possible scenarios.
edb More than 1 year ago
I'm an Orb fan, but not one 3 year old stands tall. Verrazano beat who the last two races. A hurt Itsmyluckyday and Oxbow. A ton of bettors jumped off of him at the derby for all the right reasons. Palace Malice is gaining ground as the year goes on, but I still would bet Orb in any race. I agree that the Dude will be favorite if healthy for Classic and HOY is his with a win. Till then, it's Wise Dan.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
He is a great TURF MILER... The connections know this at are protecting horse and inerests. Great job
Albert More than 1 year ago
Mike, Fiftyshadesofgold's loss cost me a couple of nice winning bets, but was it as bad a ride as you say or was there an extenuating circumstance? Andy Serling commented before the race that he thought she could overcome a bad post draw and it appeared to me that she was making a winning move when she got slammed into the rail. At least it looked to me as if she hit the rail. Lanerie made a courageous move that a lot of jockeys never try and he paid the price. But what would you have done with 3 good runners strung out in front of you, including a confirmed closer on the farthest side? Angle out to the four path and lose considerable ground? Or go for the win you were confident was in your grasp? I'm sorry it turned out the way it did, but I think he did the right thing.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
I respectfully disagree. I don't think the rider did the right thing. At all. I believe prohibitive favorites who absolutely tower over the field on paper should be ridden that way. Trying to squeeze a horse through a precarious hole on the rail would be one thing if that horse had little or no margin for error. That wasn't the case with Fiftyshadesofgold. Going in, she was many, many lengths better than that field. She should have been ridden with commensurate confidence. She should have gone around the front three. She had the margin of error to concede that sort of ground loss.
Albert More than 1 year ago
I do agree that the filly was the best of the field --- probably by 2 to 3 lengths at the distance. However, if Lanerie made a circling move before the turn, he would be giving up most of that margin running wide in the turn and if he made the angle-out in the 4 path coming out of the turn, he might not have been able to run down a group of the quality in that field with 3/16ths of a mile left. Tough call for the jockey, IMHO.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
Don't understand C. Lanerie insistence on riding the rail. Just a mistake
Robert Johnson More than 1 year ago
Maybe he didn't like the odds on his horse.
Ryan Cale More than 1 year ago
I have to agree with robert. knowing Lanerie's riding 'habits', i wouldn't be surprised to find out that the race went exactly according to plan.
Ivan More than 1 year ago
If you see the replay, the filly was showing signs of not wanting to go thru that hole since the 3/8's pole. That was Lanerie's mistake, not realizing that. Rosario got very easy with a slap on his hand, but Lanerie should be penalized for an extremely faulty ride.
Richard Barton More than 1 year ago
Don't you guys understand that you can lose a race while being FOULED going wide, too! You can be FOULED, while between horses too, see L. Pincay's final ride. Was Wise Dan supposed to spot the field a head start, then try to loop the field in each of his last two starts, having drawn the rail? If you've seen enough races the hole will usually present itself. If not, hats off to the other riders that rode a FAIR race.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
You also have to realize you're dealing with a two year old fillies and it seemed apparent to me that Lanerie's filly was reluctant to go through that hole. Not unusual for a young filly to shy away from that situation. He should have gone around, but Rosario did come in quite a bit too. On reflection, there's blame on both sides.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
I agree with you Albert except I don't think she was ever slammed into the rail. I watched the race many times and honestly don't see where he had any real option. She was always covered. Maybe could have swung very wide into the lane but was already on heels and would have had to take back quite a bit even there. Once into the lane and trying through the rail, again would have had to take back rather hard and swung out very wide, which would have amost surely meant no win. He did the right thing. The only problem maybe with the ride was he should have gone through when the rail opened huge but honestly the horse was just not getting through there quick enough as some say a horse that towers over the field should have. If not trying the rail with the huge opportunity that was there and taking back, swinging wide and not getting up, we would still be hearing about the bad ride by not going through the rail. This stuff happens.
Edward More than 1 year ago
It's fine,Wise Dan can't win HoY in 2013 unless he wins the Classic. There are too many horses with better wins then him at this point. Since they all race each other, one of them is going to add even more hardware.(Orb, Palice, Verrazano, Cross Traffic, Ft. Larned, GoD,) It's a long shot he evens finishes in the top 2 or 3.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Mike, With 2 horses, Lure and Housebuster, from non-traditional divisions making it into the Hall of Fame, does this open the door to some other horses from these divisions who might have been overlooked before? Among middle distance turf horses like Lure, I'm thinking of the horse currently at the center of so much debate, Wise Dan. If Dan repeats in the BC Mile, he will have accomplished considerably more than Lure. Another possibility could be Steinlen. That horse didn't have the brilliance of a Lure or Wise Dan, but he was durable and prolific, winning 12 graded stakes including 4 grade 1s, while placing in 11 other graded stakes among them 7 grade 1s. Notably, Steinlen demonstrated his versatility by winning both the BC Mile and Arlington Million. Among sprinters like Housebuster, what about the chances of making the Hall for horses like Groovy, Artax, Lost in the Fog, Midnight Lute, and Kona Gold? Most attractive among them, at least in my opinion, is Kona Gold, who was both consistently fast, with 17 Beyers of 110+, and durable with 10 graded stakes wins. And though he didn't win multiple Breeder's Cup Sprints, he did run 2nd, 3rd, and 4th to go along with his 2000 win.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
I would think the answer to your main question is yes. Where Wise Dan has a leg up (so to speak) on Hall of Fame consideration is, unlike Lure and Housebuster, he is a Horse of the Year, even if an imperfect one. As you said, Steinlen never had the brilliance of Lure or Wise Dan. And for me, Groovy was a decided cut above the other sprinters you listed.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the response Mike. Groovy's championship season of 1987 came two years before I started following the sport. I can go back and read Groovy's pps and watch some of his races, but not having watched his career unfold in the present, I'm not able to fully appreciate just how he was perceived by the racing world at the time. Because his losses in the Breeder's Cup have colored how his other races are perceived, I'm not going to be able to know just how highly Groovy was thought of going into the 87' BC Sprint. Of the sprinters I listed since 89', Artax and Midnight Lute might have been the most talented, but Kona Gold was just a hair off them, and he was considerably more consistent and/or durable, and thus he holds a clear advantage in accomplishments.
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
I don't see any evidence that says Wise Dan wouldn't love 10f on turf. He'd win the Arlington Million I think. And so what if he lost? No shame in losing. The real shame is not trying. Oh well. I think they're just gearing up for another "wow" performance in the Mile. If he impresses like he did last year and the Classic winner is iffy, he could be looking at another Horse of the Year. He has certainly generated the most buzz so far.