09/28/2011 2:40PM

Breeders' Cup Mile: Lopresti has pair of contenders in Turallure and Wise Dan

Michael Burns
Turallure comes into the Breeders' Cup off victories in the Woodbine Mile (above) and the Bernard Baruch.

Charlie Lopresti had what seemed like a career year in 2010. He won six stakes races, one more than he’d won in his first 17 years as a trainer, and three of those stakes were graded, triple Lopresti’s previous total. The 25 wins for the year was a career best, and Lopresti’s horses earned more than $1 million, roughly double his previous high.

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Despite a slow start to the season, Lopresti is doing it all over again in 2011. Already this year he has won six more stakes and three graded stakes, and even as part of his high-class core from 2010 has deteriorated, Lopresti has two apparently legitimate hopefuls for the Breeders’ Cup Mile in Turallure and Wise Dan.

“I’ve been around good horses, I know what they’re about, but as far as my training them, it’s all just come together,” Lopresti said. “To tell you that I thought I was going to have this much success three years ago, I’d have thought that was crazy.”

Wise Dan, a 4-year-old bred and owned by Chicagoan Mort Fink, was part of the Lopresti revelation last year, winning the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland before finishing a close sixth in the BC Sprint. Wise Dan’s turf and two-turn debut came this past summer, when he won the Firecracker Handicap by almost three lengths. The Firecracker happens to be a one-mile race at Churchill Downs, just like the 2011 BC Mile.

Turallure, bred and owned by the Four D Stable of Donna Arnold, has burst onto the middle-distance turf scene in just the last three months. He won the Opening Verse at Churchill over subsequent Arlington Handicap winner Tajaaweed in June, and after giving futile chase to loose-on-the-lead Sidney’s Candy in the Fourstardave at Saratoga, Turallure won the Aug. 26 Bernard Baruch there with authority, coming back three weeks later with a flying finish to nip Courageous Cat in the Woodbine Mile.

“I hate to get ahead of myself, but he seems to be as good as he’s ever been right now,” Lopresti said. “I really don’t think that last race took much out of him.”

Lopresti, 57, has won 163 races in a training career that began in 1993, when he took a job training second-string runners owned by Calumet Farm on the training track at Calumet’s storied property in Lexington. Lopresti worked with active racers, but also oversaw horses undergoing layoffs at the farm and the breaking of Calumet yearlings. Such a diversified work environment is something Lopresti has sought throughout his life with horses.

Born in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, Lopresti spent most of his childhood on Long Island, where he had riding horses and “messed around with show horses.” The racetrack, Lopresti said, always held a special allure, and at 19 Lopresti found work at Belmont Park grooming and hotwalking for trainer Joe Cantey. But Lopresti, unlike most head trainers, did not stick strictly to track work. For 12 years he worked as an assistant farm manager in Kentucky, and Lopresti and his wife, Amy, have developed their own Lexington-area farm, called Forest Lane.

“The biggest thing with me, when I was at the racetrack I always wanted to see how they broke the babies and did everything,” Lopresti said. “I think the more you learn about this business, the better it is. I foaled horses, I broke them. That was always my goal, to learn as much as I can. It helps me as a trainer to learn where they came from, how they got there. So many people treat them just as racehorses. They’re horses first.”

Lopresti’s operation was slow into stride this season. His horses are based at Keeneland, and Lopresti typically does well there, but his runners went 1 for 12 at the 2011 spring meet. As of July 1, the stable had gone 0 for 5 with 2011 graded stakes runners.

“We do things a little bit different. Thanksgiving, the first of December, a lot of the horses go home,” said Lopresti. “It was a little slow at Keeneland, but those guys had been off all winter. It’s very hard to find allowance races now. You have to jump into graded stakes.”

Two of Lopresti’s best 2010 runners, Here Comes Ben and Successful Dan, didn’t come back into form this year. Here Comes Ben won the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga and was a 5-2 favorite when he finished 11th in the 2010 BC Dirt Mile. This year, he won one minor stakes race in four starts, and it’s possible that Here Comes Ben will be retired to stud, Lopresti said. Successful Dan hasn’t raced since being disqualified from first to third in the Nov. 26 Clark Handicap and subsequently injuring a suspensory ligament. Successful Dan is in training, Lopresti said, but might not start until 2012. And by then, another couple of surprisingly talented racehorses might have found their way into Lopresti’s care.

“You just never know when you’re going to get a good horse,” he said.