07/03/2013 12:56PM

Dick Jerardi: Wise Dan critics seem shortsighted

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Wise Dan’s 16 victories have come at seven racetracks.

I did not read much about the recent criticism of Wise Dan’s 2013 campaign, but I did hear about it. I was not shocked. It is the 21st century way, where everybody has an opinion and a forum to express it.

To try to make sense of the recent arguments, I decided to review Wise Dan’s history. This was a pretty nice horse from his debut at Turfway Park on Feb. 26, 2010, until finishing fourth in an optional claimer on June 10, 2011.

Wise Dan was 4 for 9 lifetime. He was 2 for 4 on Polytrack and 2 for 5 on dirt.

Wise Dan had won the Phoenix at Keeneland in October 2010 and ran sixth, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths, in his next race, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, earning his first 100-plus Beyer Speed Figure. Wise Dan got a 102 Beyer when he won an optional claimer three weeks after the Breeders’ Cup.

The horse lost his first three races of 2011, getting an 88 Beyer in an optional claimer on June 10 in the last of the three. Nobody could have predicted what was about to go down.

Wise Dan was 14-1 in his grass debut, the Firecracker Handicap on July 4 at Churchill Downs. He was brilliant, winning easily in a 10-horse field. He followed that up with a win in the Presque Isle Mile on Tapeta and strong fourth behind the brilliant Gio Ponti in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

Since that loss, Wise Dan is a tough-trip head loss in the 2012 Stephen Foster from winning 11 consecutive stakes, seven of them Grade 1, two on dirt, two on Polytrack, seven on grass, four at a 1 1/8 miles, seven at one mile.

During the streak, the 6-year-old has won at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Santa Anita, Saratoga, and Woodbine. He has posted 10 consecutive 100-plus Beyers, including a 110 in the Woodbine Mile and the highest synthetic figure ever, a 117 in the 2012 Ben Ali.

By any measure, it is quite an amazing résumé , but, for reasons I really don’t understand, it is still not enough. Perhaps it is just the world we live in when everything is subject to criticism, the facts often an early casualty in a rush to search for some unattainable perfection.

I was at Churchill Downs for the Derby when Wise Dan won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. It was clear the horse disliked the yielding surface. He just never looked comfortable. He won by nearly five lengths.

Wise Dan did not look himself in last Saturday’s Firecracker run on a surface that was closer to bog than fairway. It took forever for him to get space to run. When he finally got loose, he won again.

Basically, that is all Wise Dan does. He wins. And apparently, it is still not enough. He is not winning on dirt. He is not winning longer races. His last seven races have been on grass, six at on mile, one at 1 1/8 miles.

Looks to me like those were just the logical races for trainer Charles LoPresti to try at the time. Now, after gearing the big horse up for the summer and the fall in a race that was nothing more than a bridge, LoPresti has options. The horse is off to Saratoga, where there are four potential races. He can run in any two of the Fourstardave, the Bernard Baruch, the Whitney, and the Woodward, two grass, two dirt.

We don’t know how 2013 is going to end. What if Wise Dan wins the Woodward or Whitney? What if he finishes the year unbeaten, ending it with another win in the BC Mile?

We are all so impatient. We want to know yesterday what is going to happen tomorrow. We ascribe motive when someone is just trying to figure out the best course of action. We think, because there is so much more information available, that we know more than we actually do.

My suggestion is to concentrate on what we do know. We know that Wise Dan is one of the most unique horses we have ever seen. He has won at seven racetracks. He has 16 wins, with 1 second and zero thirds. He knows where the finish line is and he desperately wants to get there before all the other horses.

Debate all you want, but don’t forget to savor what you are seeing. You may never witness anything exactly like it again.

John Doe More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan's "weak competition" did well this weekend. Flat Out (G2 Suburban H. Winner), beaten by nearly 7 lengths by Wise Dan. Big Blue Kitten (G1 United Nations Winner) beaten by nearly 11 lengths Wise Dan.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Edward Nelson. You underscored my point.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
He was one who I new had talent and always played from the start. I played him when he didn't do great things. He has made me proud because I new he had talent and suck with him. Feels good when you can get one of those before he turns into a star.
Paul Tuel Jr More than 1 year ago
Well put. You don't see many horses this consistent and fun to watch, hell we're lucky to see most of them run past the 1st half of their 3 yr. old season. Just enjoy what this guy does-especially the fact he goes all over the place and still runs tough every time!
Alfred Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Little Mike is a very good horse. Wise Dan is a great one!
therealdubwhite More than 1 year ago
Very good horses campaign at 8f only Great horses campaign at 10-12f. Speed+Stamina = Class
Bob More than 1 year ago
What is there to criticize? Wise Dan has beaten all comers, beaten them soundly and beaten them on every surface he has been asked to run on. Arguably he is the best North American racehorse in training today and if it weren't for Zenyatta's remarkable campaign he would have to be considered the best North American thoroughbred of the last decade!
therealdubwhite More than 1 year ago
Short sighted comment. this horse is no where near the class of the aiden Obrien horse sent over to win the Arlington Million in 2011 named Cape blanco, best turf horse we've seen on these shores in quite a long time.
shawn kennedy More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, where is Little Mike now?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Little Mike is the highweight in this Saturday's United Nations at Monmouth Park.
KissmeCatexoxo More than 1 year ago
I saw him & Animal Kingdom at the BC last year and both horses were stunning to just look at. This article is more true that most people realize. Wise Dan is unreal especially with the BC track record he broke.
nick More than 1 year ago
Ya know, folks, there once was a gelding who was a top notch grass Miler at the age of four, who had been hurt a couple times in his career. At the age of five he was entered in the 1&1/8 mile Woodford Reserve on Derby Day, but no one really thought he could win. Well, he won. Then, he was entered in the 1&1/4 mile Arlington Million. Again, he was kinda overlooked, and what do ya know, he won that one. THEN, against all odds and most peoples common sense, he was entered in the Grandaddy, the 1&1/2 mile Breeders Cup Turf. Absolutely nobody(including me, even though I did bet on him) thought he had a ghost of a chance. Well, waddaya know, he won that won, too(tying a track record in the process). The horse? Little Mike.
therealdubwhite More than 1 year ago
Thank you for your comment, people don't know how hard it is to win from 5f - 12f. Little Mike has done that, in turf races that matter. The Arlington Million holds more credibility than any race that Wise Dan has run in and likely putting all of his races together on turf in these allowance quality Grade 2 and Grade 3 races that the connections Target.
Eddie Smith More than 1 year ago
"Debate all you want, but don’t forget to savor what you are seeing. You may never witness anything exactly like it again." What???????????????????