09/26/2012 3:52PM

Breeders’ Cup Mile: Wise Dan can stave off Europeans

Barbara D. Livingston
A tri-surface threat – he has graded stakes wins on turf, dirt, and synthetic – Wise Dan has won his two grass races this year by more than eight lengths combined.

North America racing fans long ago reached a point of acceptance with regard to homegrown turf talent versus international competition. It’s fairly simple: Our horses – insomuch as there is any sort of patriotic attachment to Thoroughbreds – simply get their heads handed to them when matched with good European runners.

But this year might be different. This year, Wise Dan is racing on grass.

In the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 16, Wise Dan easily overcame his first European challenger. Cityscape has been a second-tier, Group 1 miler overseas, and Wise Dan ran past him while barely drawing a deep breath, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Hunters Bay, with Cityscape another length back in third. There figure to be a couple of better Euro milers than Cityscape in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but barring the totally unexpected presence of Frankel, the world’s highest-rated horse, Wise Dan probably will be favored to take them down.

And as far as owner Mort Fink is concerned, they can bring Frankel into the mix, too.

“I’ve watched Frankel run several times,” said Fink, who has campaigned European runners before. “I think our horse could run with anyone. He certainly wasn’t all out last time. He’s never been all out. I think he has more to give.”

That’s something to think about, because Wise Dan has given so much already. A tri-surface threat – he has graded stakes wins on turf, dirt, and synthetic – Wise Dan has won his two grass races this year by more than eight lengths combined. In the Fourstardave at Saratoga, he blasted through on the rail and beat the very decent Corporate Jungle by five lengths. The race at Woodbine was over at the stretch call.

The thing is, had you asked Fink at the beginning of the year to which Breeders’ Cup race Wise Dan would be pointed right now, he wouldn’t have named the Mile. Wise Dan had won the Firecracker at Churchill during the summer of 2011, but finished fourth in the Shadwell Mile last fall at Keeneland in his only other grass start and looked more like a dirt prospect for 2012 after a sharp victory in the Clark Handicap to close out his 2011 season.

“At the beginning of the year, Charlie and I hoped to be in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, because he wasn’t proven as a grass horse,” Fink said.

“Charlie” is trainer Charlie Lopresti, who was to return late this week from a hunting trip in Montana. Fink and Lopresti have conversed about how best to get Wise Dan to the BC Mile, but a decision on whether to start in the Shadwell or go straight to California won’t be made until after Lopresti gets back to work.

Few would dispute that on raw form, Wise Dan is the best North American turf miler going, and his overseas BC Mile competition hasn’t yet taken firm shape. Moonlight Cloud, who won the Prix du Moulin in her last start, is a likely runner for trainer Freddie Head, who has won the Mile five times, twice as a rider and three times as trainer of Goldikova. Excelebration, though, could be Wise Dan’s most formidable opponent should trainer Aidan O’Brien target the Mile with him.

◗ One Euro that Wise Dan won’t meet is Farhh, who was ruled out of Breeders’ Cup competition Wednesday by Simon Crisford, Godolphin’s racing manager.