09/25/2013 3:22PM

Breeders' Cup Mile: Wise Dan gets green light for Shadwell Mile

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Michael Burns
Wise Dan is on target to start in the Oct. 5 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, according to owner Mort Fink.

When a horse sets a track record it normally implies radical exertion. A couple minutes of extreme speed should, in the typical course of events, lead to a couple extra weeks’ rest.

But “normal” and “typical” aren’t adjectives that stick to Wise Dan – there is nothing normal about the heights to which he has ascended the last two seasons, and a typical Wise Dan performance has become breathtaking spectacle. Wise Dan set a course record of 1:31.71 in the Sept. 15 Woodbine Mile, but all it took to see how easily he had won was a nominally functional set of eyes.

“It’s gotten to the point it’s kind of scary,” said Wise Dan’s owner and breeder, Mort Fink. “Didn’t it look like he was just galloping?”

It did look that way. And reports Fink subsequently has received from trainer Charlie LoPresti suggest Wise Dan came out of the Woodbine Mile the same way he went into it. If that state of affairs holds, it’s good news for Keeneland racing fans, because Wise Dan has been firmly penciled into a start there Oct. 5 in the Shadwell Turf Mile.

“If he still is the same way he is today, he will run in the Shadwell,” Fink said. “I’d rather run than give him three workouts.”

[BREEDERS’ CUP 2013: See DRF’s top contenders]

The Shadwell is a $750,000 race in its own right, but it remains a bridge to the race Fink months ago proclaimed Wise Dan’s major 2013 objective: The $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Wise Dan stands firmly atop the list of contenders for the Mile, and that includes whatever set of Europeans chooses to challenge him at Santa Anita. Wise Dan easily handled the strong Euro-miler Excelebration winning the 2012 Mile, and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities World Thorughbred Rankings pegs Wise Dan as the best active racehorse on the planet.

Wise Dan could become the fourth repeat Mile winner, joining Miesque, Lure, and Goldikova, who won the race three years in a row. Wise Dan was the 9-5 favorite when he beat Animal Kingdom by 1 1/2 lengths last season, and if he impressively wins the Shadwell, Wise Dan will go into the Mile as one of the shortest-priced Breeders’ Cup starters.

California’s top miler, Obviously, remains the greatest domestic threat to Wise Dan, though his most recent performance, a half-length win Aug. 25 in the Del Mar Mile, did not look as sharp as Obviously’s two previous victories. Obviously still should be heavily favored to win the City of Hope Mile on Oct. 5 at Santa Anita.

The makeup of the European invasion for the Mile is in flux. English trainer Richard Hannon has mentioned two good horses, Toronado and Olympic Glory, as possible runners, but the former is coming off throat surgery to repair a breathing issue, and the latter was a ho-hum second in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin on Sept. 15 at Longchamp. That race’s winner, Maxios, also got a Mile mention, but his best form comes on soft turf, and the tight Santa Anita course does not seem a great fit. Trainer Freddie Head has not ruled out a second Santa Anita trip for Moonlight Cloud, but she ran far below her best form when soundly beaten in the 2012 Mile.

What it all comes down to is this: If Wise Dan stays sharp, stays sound, and has decent luck, he will win the Shadwell and have a great chance to complete a 7-for-7 season in the Mile. And even if all that works out, don’t expect Wise Dan, an affable gelding in most circumstances, to be pining for a winter vacation.

“The hardest thing about this horse is getting him pulled up,” Fink said. “The only thing that makes Wise Dan mad is when he can’t run.”