06/25/2013 3:42PM

Churchill Downs: Wise Dan set to tote 128 pounds in Firecracker Handicap

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Barbara D. Livingston
Wise Dan, winning the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, will concede considerable weight in Saturday's Firecracker Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Conceding the 128-pound assignment is acceptable, trainer Charlie LoPresti said Tuesday that Wise Dan is a very likely starter Saturday night in the Grade 2, $175,000 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs.

With entries for the one-mile turf race due Wednesday, LoPresti said he does not necessarily agree with the weights, particularly as they portend for handicaps for the rest of the year for Wise Dan, the 2012 Horse of the Year. But he did say he is willing to “give it a try,” mostly because of how the Firecracker will set up Wise Dan for the rest of the year.

“This is a good race to get him ready for Saratoga and what we’ve got in mind schedule-wise through the Breeders’ Cup,” he said. “If we win, it’s not good for any other handicap we run in later on. But we’re going to go on and try.”

LoPresti said he has been oblivious to criticism on social media sites for not recently trying Wise Dan outside his preferred niche, that being middle-distance turf events. Wise Dan has won his last six races, ending with five straight Grade 1 events, and 9 of his last 10. His two races this year were the Maker’s 46 Mile and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

“I don’t pay attention to any of that,” he said. “That’s why I don’t do Twitter or any of that other stuff. People can say what they want. They don’t train this horse.”

Wise Dan, with John Velazquez back to ride, will spot his prospective rivals 11 to 15 pounds in the Firecracker, the anchor of an 11-race Downs After Dark program. The other probables include Corporate Jungle, 117; Lea, 117; Daddy Nose Best, 116; Seruni, 115; Laurie’s Rocket, 114; and Dimension, 113.

Perhaps the most interesting opponent is Lea, the 4-year-old colt who returned from a 6 1/2-month layoff earlier this month with a Churchill allowance victory to run his career record to 4 for 6. Trainer Al Stall Jr. initially indicated he would avoid Wise Dan by running Lea instead in the Poker next week at Belmont Park, “but with him giving us 11 pounds, I thought it’d be worth taking a shot,” Stall said Tuesday.

Wise Dan won the 2011 Firecracker before developing into a horse of major scope. Saturday’s program also will include the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes.

Asmussen has two for Bashford Manor

Steve Asmussen has a pair of top contenders for the $100,000 Bashford Manor in D’cajun Cat and Gun Roar, both of them maiden winners earlier in the meet.

Other probables for the six-furlong Bashford Manor include Choctaw Chuck, Debt Ceiling, Hollywood Talent, and Sandbar.

Asmussen has won seven races for 2-year-olds at Churchill this spring, the same number as Wesley Ward.

Also scheduled for Saturday night is the $65,000 Kelly’s Landing, a seven-furlong race for older horses.

Ramseys near another record

Ken and Sarah Ramsey are on the verge of yet another notable record.

The Ramseys enter the final four-day stretch of the 38-day Churchill spring meet with 27 winners, which equals the all-time mark set by A.J. Foyt III at a 93-day meet in 1983.

The Ramseys have been perennial leading owners for years on the Kentucky circuit, but they have been particularly dominant this spring. At Keeneland in April, they set a record with 25 winners, more than doubling the former record of 12.

The stable has five horses entered in three races Thursday, and six more entries Friday. At least one Thursday entry (Buckwheat in race 1) is expected to scratch in favor of a Friday race.

New racecaller at Ellis

Ellis Park officials are expected to announce that Keith Nelson, whose last full-time race-calling job was in 2007, will be calling races at the upcoming summer meet.

Nelson filled in at Ellis in 2008 after Luke Kruytbosch died suddenly. Bill Downes called the Ellis races from 2009-12 but now is the caller at Indiana Downs, which runs a much longer meet. Downes also calls at Beulah Park during winter months.

Meanwhile, Ellis continues to work on its main racing surface, which was discovered to be full of rocks after a new batch of dirt was added this spring. Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, traveled Tuesday to the western Kentucky track to get an update on the progress being made.

Bridgmohan appears uncatchable

Shaun Bridgmohan, who celebrated his 34th birthday Monday, seems to have a lock on the riding title. Into the final week, Bridgmohan not only held a 47-41 lead atop the jockey standings over Rosie Napravnik, but figures to be far more active here during the final week than his closest rival.

Bridgmohan has four mounts Thursday, while Napravnik is named on six, but then Bridgmohan has mounts in all but one of the 11 Friday races while Napravnik will be absent to ride at Prairie Meadows in Iowa.

Corey Lanerie, the leading rider at the 2012 spring and fall meets, is next in line with 37 wins.

Bittersweet moment for Lanerie

The eight-length victory aboard favored Fiftyshadesofgold in the Debutante Stakes on Saturday night was a bittersweet one indeed for Lanerie. His 53-year-old uncle, Steve Estilette, was visiting from Louisiana when he died unexpectedly.

“I felt like I had an angel on my back down the stretch,” said Lanerie.

Meanwhile, Bret Calhoun, trainer of Fiftyshadesofgold, said he will take some time to decide on a next start for the Texas-bred filly. Likewise, Asmussen said he has no immediate plans for Teardrop, who was a distant seventh as the second choice.

“She came out of it just fine,” said Asmussen.

Bunch of hard-to-figure winners

A flurry of longshots mixed in with a slew of favorites to make last week a rough one for many horseplayers.

From 41 races, there were eight winners that returned $40 or more: Pastor Puckett ($50.80), Rave Reviews ($55.20), Curmudgeon ($53.60), Ridge City ($82.80), Kentucky Lightnin ($51), Contrapuntal ($74.60), Gleaning ($40.20), and Potomac River ($77.60).

Seventeen favorites won during that same span.