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Churchill Downs: Wise Dan has options after Firecracker win
By Marty McGee
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Wise Dan came out of his adventurous triumph in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on Saturday night at Churchill Downs “without a scratch,” according to Charlie LoPresti, who kept breathing deep sighs of relief in the race’s aftermath.
LoPresti admitted to having some “What have I done?” moments before and during the Firecracker, which was run amid heavy rain. Wise Dan, carrying 128 pounds, was blocked in traffic much of the way, then brushed the inside hedge and bobbled noticeably down the stretch en route to a two-length victory, his seventh in a row. John Velazquez was aboard Wise Dan, the 1-5 favorite in a field of five.
“It was nerve-racking with the weight spread and the way the weather played out, but we got through it,” said LoPresti, who trains the 6-year-old Wise Dan for owner and breeder Morton Fink. LoPresti even admitted that he came very close to having the gelding scratched.
“I’m glad he got to run,” he said. “The fans really cheered him on when he came back. He showed he’s truly a great horse. I just hope they don’t put too much weight on him down the road.”
LoPresti said Wise Dan, the 2012 Horse of the Year, will head to Saratoga in about two weeks. Although either or both of the main turf fixtures, the Aug. 10 Fourstardave and the Aug. 31 Bernard Baruch, are more likely, LoPresti would not rule out either of the two top dirt races for older horses, the Aug. 3 Whitney and the Aug. 31 Woodward.
“I’d really like to keep him undefeated, and I’d like to win a Grade 1 with him on the dirt this year,” he said. “I think if we could win a Grade 1 with him on the dirt and keep him undefeated, that he doesn’t necessarily need to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I think if we get a Grade 1 on the dirt with him and then keep him going and get a few wins on the turf and then get to the Breeders’ Cup, that maybe he’ll get Horse of the Year again.”
Meanwhile, the easy 2 3/4-length victory by Debt Ceiling earlier Saturday evening in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes made him a major contender for the upcoming stakes at Saratoga.
Debt Ceiling, owned by Tim O’Donohue, was eased up by jockey Eric Camacho in the final half-furlong, perhaps accounting for the relatively low Beyer Speed Figure of 76. The track was a sea of slop by the time the six-furlong race was run, with the field strung out by 23 lengths from first to last.
Debt Ceiling, by Discreet Cat, is unbeaten in three starts. He is trained by Jerry Robb, the Maryland veteran perhaps best known for his work with the legendary campaigner Little Bold John in the 1980s. Robb, 61, has been training for 40 years.
“We haven’t had anybody call to try to buy him, which kind of surprises me, but maybe we will now,” Robb said while exiting the winner’s circle. “His numbers in his first two races were slow, but that doesn’t bother me. We know how good this colt is.”
What a shame he only was assigned 128lbs for his 7 win in a row and being H.O.T.Y., he should have shouldered 132lbs being a reingning H.O.T.Y. and very talented. What happened to the days of Affirmed, Forego, etc who toted weight and proved just how good they were by carring that type of weight to victory. Wise Dan PAPER CHAMPION and not as good as all want to believe with him overwelming his competition while carring no weight. Not in the same league as past champions as most want to compare him to.................. WHAT A JOKE.....................
In horse racing, the incentive (money) is for the best to avoid the best, instead of facing the best. The only time that's not true is the Breeders Cup.
Seems like some different schools of thought here. Some feel a horse can't be truly great unless he proves himself at 10+ furlongs. Others just want to marvel and what appears to be the best middle distance US-based turf horse since Lure/Paradise Creek. (Note, I'm not saying he's better than those but better than anything since then.) As far as him running on dirt, I think his career started out largely on dirt, and it wasn't until he switched to turf that he developed into the awesome monster that we see today. He also had a lot of layoffs early in his career and it's possible he doesn't really love running on dirt. So the horse loves synthetics (see 117 Beyer at KEE last year) and he loves 8-9f on turf. I wonder how he would do at 10f on the turf, but his connections are convinced that he won't excel at this trip. Either way he's an awesome horse to watch in action and I will make sure to be up at the Spa this summer on the day that he runs. If I owned him, I'm not sure I'd feel great about running him in the Whitney or the Woodward, but I don't care about HotY. It makes more sense for him to run in the 4Stardave where he would be 2-5 on his preferred surface and be running for $500k instead of $750k (where he'd be 5-2). Should be interesting no matter which path he takes.
The horse is amazing. All the negativity is sickening and quite sad . Wow. What miserable lives some in here must lead.
I'm not a Wise Dan "hater" I'm just a horse racing fan who wants to see him run against the best! Put him in the Whitney, he's a beast on dirt too!
This is a wonderful horse handled by folks that are playing "not to lose". Reminds me of a bunch of NFL teams and their "prevent" defenses. Run the horse and let the chips fall where they may ! If they (owner and trainer) think that an occasional defeat really diminishes Wise Dan then they should harken back to Secretariat's defeat at the SPA - don't know of anyone who feels that way. Come on - go out and compete - show some confidence in a wonderful horse!
For what-ever reason there's a lot of Wise Dan haters, which makes no sense to me. Agreed they could have went to Hollywood and faced G1 but what for, been there done that. Racing at Churchill downs is inferior? Going to Saratoga is stepping down in class?? Winning at Woodbine against the world is dodging competition? Setting a course record in the BC, means nothing?? Yikes!!! Tough crowd. Bigger and better things down the road with the Breeders Cup the big prize!! You might get your wish and see WD on the dirt this summer, and he could get beat, no doubt, but what you won’t see is Fort Larned taking on WD on the turf!!
He is a gelding! Its all about money. Why should he have to prove anything? Winning HOY don't put any money in the owners pocket.
running Wise Dan against horses put against him in races like this is like asking Picasso to paint a picture of a hot pile of horse----! ITS AN ABOMINATION AND SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN!
Such a great turf horse, why not try him out at a longer turf distance than a dirt G1? Arlington Million, perhaps??
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