10/08/2014 9:32AM

Jerardi: Wise Dan's consistency, longevity make him a legend

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Wise Dan’s career is a tribute to owner-breeder Morton Fink and trainer Charlie LoPresti.

After Wise Dan won his 14th consecutive grass race last Saturday at Keeneland, Charlie LoPresti was wondering why even all that winning wasn’t enough. The answer, sadly, is that it is 2014, when even our heroes – especially our heroes – are scrutinized for their perceived flaws rather than appreciated for their sustained excellence.

Wise Dan is a legitimate horse-racing hero on his way to legend. Consider that if last year’s Shadwell Turf Mile had not come off the grass and Wise Dan had not had a difficult trip in the 2012 Stephen Foster Handicap, the two-time Horse of the Year almost certainly would be off to try to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile for the third consecutive year on a 19-race winning streak.

I see no flaws in Wise Dan. He is a very capable horse on dirt, a really good horse on synthetic, and one of the greatest grass horses in the history of horse racing. That is American racing, European racing, Australian racing, any country’s racing.

In the 21st century, what are the most elusive attributes for horses at any level of the sport? They are obviously consistency and longevity.

What separates Wise Dan from every other horse of this generation? Consistency and longevity.

The 7-year-old by Pennsylvania stallion Wiseman’s Ferry always fires. He saved my last two Breeders’ Cups because I was not only certain he would win the Mile, I knew he would inhale any speed horses, so I could look for closers to be second in the exacta.

Wise Dan has been brilliantly managed. When your horse is always the odds-on favorite, you are placing him in the races where he has the best chance to win.

Would it be fun to see Wise Dan run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic? Sure. But why would they run in a race where they wouldn’t be favored and where the horse would be well out of his comfort zone? They wouldn’t, and they won’t.

I never hesitated in voting for Wise Dan as Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013. Wise Dan is vulnerable this year, just as he has been vulnerable the last two years. Wise Dan won his Breeders’ Cup race, but if Game On Dude had won the Classic either year, he would have been Horse of the Year. It did not happen.

After Wise Dan wins the Mile this year (anybody think he isn’t winning?), he will again be vulnerable. If California Chrome or Shared Belief wins the Classic, that horse is the 2014 Horse of the Year. And one could certainly make a case for a Classic-winning Tonalist as well. And none of that is a knock on Wise Dan. It is just American racing reality.

Wise Dan would finish off another perfect year, with four Grade 1 wins and another Mile. I don’t think that would be enough to beat a horse (California Chrome) who won the San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Classic. Or a horse (Shared Belief) who won the Pacific Classic, Awesome Again, and Classic while remaining unbeaten in his career. Or even a Peter Pan, Belmont, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Classic winner (Tonalist).

The “but” is that one of those horses probably has to win the Classic or, in California Chrome’s case, running a heroic second to an unlikely winner could get a horse with his overall résumé serious consideration.

Horse of the Year could be a fascinating discussion after Nov. 1. Today, I think we should all pause and be thankful we have been able to witness a horse who never bounces and overcomes ground he does not like, trips that compromise his best chance, and even colic surgery.

Really, what were you thinking when Wise Dan’s head was turned at the break Saturday? You were thinking that a horse coming off surgery and a life-and-death win in his comeback race probably would have too much to overcome, having to pass every horse in the race. And yet that was Wise Dan lengthening his stride in the final 100 yards and rolling by the field.

Wise Dan’s career is a tribute to owner-breeder Morton Fink and trainer LoPresti. They have a magical horse and have given him every opportunity to produce magic.

And Saturday’s race was yet another example of why John Velazquez is among the best big-race riders of the 2000s. Johnny V. always has a backup plan. He never panics. And even when nothing seems to be going right, he finds a way to make it right in the end, just like Wise Dan.