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Dick Jerardi: Wise Dan best choice for Horse of the Year
As I filled out my Eclipse ballot, I typed one horse’s name three times. My memory is that last year I tried to get cute and only typed Wise Dan once, in the Horse of the Year category.
This year, I voted for Wise Dan as best older male, best male turf horse, and Horse of the Year.
I have read some of my colleagues’ thoughts about Horse of the Year. There are some interesting arguments to be made. In the end, I did not think it was all that complicated.
I tried to make a case for some other very good candidates who won very significant races. I looked at Will Take Charge, Mucho Macho Man, Game On Dude, and Beholder. Those four won a combined 11 Grade 1 races.
Will Take Charge and Mucho Macho Man each lost more than he won. Will Take Charge actually lost four races by a combined 65 lengths. As good as he was from July to November, I just can’t get past that. Mucho Macho Man only ran five times and won only at Santa Anita, a track he obviously loves. They were great wins, but just not enough for me.
Game On Dude was terrific in all his races, except the race where all the serious competition showed up. I admire his consistency and all those gigantic Beyer Figures, but, in the end, beating Kettle Corn twice and Clubhouse Ride three times is not Horse of the Year worthy.
Beholder is a fascinating case for Horse of the Year. She ran seven times and ran winning races every time. She was beaten after a wild speed duel in her season debut and she was beaten in the Kentucky Oaks after leaving the other speed horses in the stretch and getting run down by the sensational Princess of Sylmar at the wire. She won her other five races with complete ease, including the Breeders’ Cup Distaff,where she made a legendary field look average and ran through that inside speed bias like it did not exist.
That she did not run against males is not a disqualifier for me, but, given that there is a very worthy male candidate who was every bit as consistent as she was, I came back to Wise Dan.
I put Beholder second on my Horse of the Year ballot, but felt very badly for the connections of Princess of Sylmar when I put the great Pennsylvania-bred second on my 3-year-old filly ballot. Not sure what I would have done if they had just gone with their original plan to keep Princess of Sylmar home in New York and passed the Distaff. It would have been very hard for me to pass on a filly who won the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama, and Beldame in succession.
I have read and heard the knocks on Wise Dan, the horses he beat and the campaign trainer Charlie Lopresti designed for his 2012 Horse of the Year. I disagree with all of them.
Would I have liked to seen Wise Dan run on dirt or artificial (on a day other than when his grass engagement was not rained to Polytrack)? Sure.
But I just had to watch this horse run to appreciate his greatness. Wise Dan loves the competition and he thrives on it.
With the exception of the Woodbine Mile, which may have been the greatest performance of the horse’s career (and that’s saying something for a horse who has won 19 times and earned more than $6.2 million), I thought Wise Dan had to overcome obstacles of one sort or another in every race.
He caught soggy or worse grass courses three times. Lopresti never scratched, even on courses that were going to test a horse with Wise Dan’s instant acceleration. The horse simply found another way to win. Remember on Derby Day when Wise Dan was going to meet Point of Entry in the Turf Classic in the middle of their optimum distances (1 1/8 miles), it was Point of Entry who was scratched because of the yielding course.
In his lone defeat, I thought Wise Dan was heroic. He was pushed way out on the first turn and never stopped trying to catch lone speed Silver Max on the Keeneland Polytrack. I thought Silver Max caught a surface he loved and ran great. His 108 Beyer proves how good he was that day.
Wise Dan carved out a relatively easy trip when he won the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile. He was much farther back than usual in the 2013 Mile. He found traffic. He had to go wide. But he was relentless once he got into the stretch and he did what he does best – win.
My favorite Wise Dan statistic is that he has run second exactly twice.
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Wise Dan, Game on Dude, Will Take Charge, Mucho Macho Man in that order
Dick, what is the division called which competes in the following races: BC Classic, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Woodward, Whitney, Big Cap, Pacific Classic, etc?
Will Take Charge finished behind the winner by 12 lengths largely because he had to check himself in a crowded field due to Verrazano's tiring. So what? Over all, the quality of the horses WTC against were better and his finished in the money were far more exciting to watch than most of Wise Dan's efforts against fields that were largely the horse racing equivalent of tin cans. You can say he beat the best horses he faced, but that isn't saying much.
Just to show my complete distasted for the eclipse awards. When a Mare comes from france and wins ONE...yes ONE race in the USA, and you give her female turf horse...LOL. Your eclipse awards are just dust collectors. Anyone this year gonna give Dawn Approach a vote for HOTY like they did with Frankel last year?...lol.
Game on Dude. Baffert showed his hand when he kept him in the barn for the Awesome Again. Don't give me this BS about resting him, and training up. He knew what kind of horse an inform MMM is. Does anyone here actually think Game On Dude could fly east and win a Stephen Foster, Whitney, or JCGC?...no. which is why for 3 years he never showed up. Only came to Kentucky to run and get beat by a plodder in Drosselmeyer.
WTC will lose three or four races in 2014. Closers on dirt rarely put together long winning streak. I said rarely. Spare me the list please.
When people say Wise Dan faced nothing are entitled to their opinion, but I strongly disagree. How can Dan face G1 milers....when he WINS all the G1 miles. I was at Woodbine for his win in the Mile and that was the most effortless , yet remarkable win I have seen in some time. 1:31 over a fast course that IS NOT cut like Santa Anita(made for records). Running 1:31 over Woodbines course is not an easy feat at all. He has beaten the winners of the last two runnings of the QEII at Ascot, he has beaten every turf miler, or sprinter that dared enter the gates. Top class horse, now the worlds TOP rated horse. Not to often a horse ranked #1 in the rankings doesn't win HOTY in his/her respective country.
It took a brave trainer and a super horse to run the Turf classic over the swampy track that Point of Entry scratched out of. I watched that race and would have wagered that Wise Dan would be lame with a soft tissue injury the next day. Instead he went on to win his next two races carrying 128 and 129 pounds and followed those with a new track record for the Woodbine mile. All this from a horse who looked broken on Derby day..I call that fearless, a professional race horse and a real winner............
Wise Dan is a professional race horse. The goal of professional horse racing is to win races and win purses. He's a gelding, he's a money maker and he's a winner...He deserves older male, turf horse and Horse of the Year... I don't want to hear anything about the competition he faced, he ran in Grade I races and won, that's what it's all about you know...........