10/24/2012 3:26PM

Breeders' Cup Mile: Wise Dan, Excelebration matchup worth price of admission

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Barbara D. Livingston
Wise Dan can prove himself against world-class competition when he faces Excelebration in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

There were no major surprises when a list of 13 pre-entered horses in the Breeders’ Cup Mile was revealed Wednesday. And that’s just fine. The matchup between Wise Dan and Excelebration alone makes the BC Mile must-see racing. Add to that intriguing inter-continental showdown the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom as well as top French filly Moonlight Cloud and the Mile should be memorable.

Among the 13 pre-entrants, Trailblazer and Turbo Compressor both have the Turf as their first preference, leaving a likely field of 11 for the Mile. Besides the aforementioned quartet, that group includes, Doubles Partner, Jeranimo, Little Mike, Mr. Commons, Obviously, Suggestive Boy, and Willcox Inn. Wise Dan, Excelebration, and Jeranimo all won Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In races. Obviously, the West Coast’s leading turf miler, was supplemented to the Mile for $100,000 after winning the Arroyo Seco Mile over the Santa Anita grass course.

Wise Dan and Point of Entry are the two best American turf horses of 2012, and Wise Dan can lay claim to being among the best turf horses in the world if he can handle Excelebration. Excelebration, a 4-year-old Aidan O’Brien trainee, has raced in the shadow of superstar Frankel for most of his career, but burst forth with his own sensational win last weekend when trouncing high-class foes in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. But Wise Dan should not be overmatched. He has won all three of his grass races this season, and those wins – the last two in Grade 1 stakes – have come by more than 10 lengths combined.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Pre-entered fields with odds and comments]

There had long been speculation that Wise Dan’s connections would wind up at least cross-entering the horse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but owner-breeder Mort Fink and trainer Charlie Lopresti stuck resolutely to their decision to go in the Mile. They also had to decide whether to race Wise Dan on Oct. 6 in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland or start in the Mile without a race since the Sept. 16 Woodbine Mile, and Lopresti firmly believes that racing in the Shadwell was the right call.

“I’m very glad I did that,” Lopresti said Wednesday. “Unequivocally so. The horse bounced out of that race really good.”

By running instead of waiting, Wise Dan, Lopresti said, doesn’t need much work before going to Santa Anita. He breezed a swift five furlongs last weekend at his home base at Keeneland and won’t work again before the Mile. Lopresti said he’s flying to California on Monday in order to meet Wise Dan when the horse arrives Tuesday.Wise Dan arrives Tuesday, will probably walk Wednesday, gallop Thursday and Friday, and then go into the biggest race of his life – so far, at least.

A gelding, 5-year-old Wise Dan, with any luck, has plenty of racing left in him, and on a conference call Wednesday, Lopresti mentioned the Dubai World Cup as a possible post-Breeders’ Cup destination for the horse.