07/03/2013 1:56PM

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.