06/22/2013 2:37PM

Churchill Downs: Wise Dan could pass Firecracker after getting 128 pounds



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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Wise Dan has been assigned 128 pounds for the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs, a heavy impost that Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman evidently believes is commensurate with the gelding’s status as the reigning Horse of the Year in North America.

Charlie LoPresti, who trains Wise Dan for owner Morton Fink, said the assignment was not altogether unexpected, but that he and Fink would have to discuss it before committing the 6-year-old homebred to the Firecracker.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t have to carry some weight, but 128 is outside the realm, as far as I’m concerned,” LoPresti said shortly after the weights were released Saturday.

The $175,000 Firecracker is set for next Saturday night, June 29, at one mile on the turf. Entries will be taken Wednesday. LoPresti said if he decides to skip the Firecracker that he likely would wait for the Aug. 10 Fourstardave on the Saratoga turf.

“The problem is Churchill can’t get the race to fill if we’re in with what the other horsemen think is not enough weight,” said LoPresti. “This early in the year, especially, I think it asks too much of us. I’m going to have to have a long talk about it with Mr. Fink.”

In the meantime, Wise Dan breezed a half-mile Saturday morning at his Keeneland base, going in 46.20 seconds over Polytrack.

“I didn’t want to work him too close in to the race in case we run,” said LoPresti. “He’s fine. He’s great. We’re ready to run if that’s what we decide to do.”

In all, 58 3-year-olds and upward are nominated to the Firecracker. Huffman said earlier in the week that he believed the weight issue likely would ultimately determine which of the others will enter.

Swift debut winner for Casse

Conquest Two Step earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure in winning his career debut Friday at Churchill, a 5 1/2-furlong race completed in 1:03.63.

Mark Casse trains Conquest Two Step, a 2-year-old colt by the first-crop sire Two Step Salsa, for the Conquest Stable of Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell. The winner was the first for the sire.

Conquest Two Step, a $420,000 purchase at Ocala in April, returned $4 as a poorly kept “good thing” and was one of seven winning favorites on an 11-race Friday card. Remarkably, the other four winners returned at least $51 on a true “feast or famine” afternoon for horseplayers.

Stevens the younger ready to start going

The career training debut of Tory “T.C.” Stevens could come as early as Saturday at Churchill. Stevens, the 28-year-old son of Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, has two horses in training at the Trackside training center.

The younger Stevens has been on crutches in recent weeks after suffering a broken femur when he was struck by a horse. His racing background includes working for Ashford Stud, a division of Coolmore, and as an assistant to his father during the elder Stevens’s absence from the saddle during a brief training career.

◗ Dullahan had his second workout since returning from a post-Dubai freshening when breezing five furlongs Saturday morning in 59.60 seconds over a fast Churchill track. Trainer Dale Romans said he is keeping his options open with the 4-year-old colt.