04/19/2013 12:09PM

Keeneland: Successful Dan dangerous in Ben Ali


LEXINGTON, Ky. – There is a temptation to believe that, because of injuries and age, Successful Dan is not the same horse he once was.

Perhaps that is true. But one look at his perfect record over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland, and selling Successful Dan short when the 7-year-old gelding returns to racing Sunday would seem a risky stance indeed.

Successful Dan has never lost in four tries at Keeneland, a record that surely makes him the horse to beat when he breaks from post 1 in the Grade 3, $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes, the eighth of nine Sunday races.

“We wouldn’t be running him if he wasn’t right,” said Charlie LoPresti, who trains Successful Dan for owner-breeder Mort Fink. “Like I said before we entered, ‘Only if we’re sure he’s sound.’ And that’s the case, so here we are.”

Successful Dan has been plagued by ligament injuries in a stop-and-start career in which he not only has won 7 of 11 starts, including all four at Keeneland, but also has drawn favorable comparisons with his younger half-brother and stablemate Wise Dan. Early last year, before Wise Dan earned the 2012 Horse of the Year award for Fink and LoPresti, the trainer said he believed Successful Dan might be the slightly better horse, all things being equal.

“He’s just got that long, beautiful stride,” said LoPresti.

LoPresti said Dr. Larry Bramlage, the noted equine veterinarian, gave Successful Dan a thumbs-up after the gelding had his ninth and final breeze for the Ben Ali on Monday. Successful Dan has been away from the races for nearly 10 months, having been taken out of training shortly after finishing second in late June as the 1-2 favorite in the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows behind Fort Larned, the eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.

Julien Leparoux, who has ridden Successful Dan in all but two of his races, will be aboard again when they face six other older horses in the Ben Ali, which is run at 1 1/8 miles over Polytrack.

Three opponents look like they could give Successful Dan a real fight – Golden Ticket, Richard’s Kid, and Boisterous.

Golden Ticket (post 3, Jimmy Graham) was good enough to dead heat for win with Alpha last summer in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, although the 4-year-old colt will have to run harder than he did in his last race, when he finished a well-back fourth in the Grade 3 Skip Away at Gulfstream Park.

Richard’s Kid (post 5, Rosie Napravnik), trained by Doug O’Neill, has earned more than $2.3 million in an outstanding 42-race career and certainly has the class to factor into this on his best.

Boisterous (post 7, Joel Rosario) will try taking advantage of the popular turf-to-synthetic angle by making his first start in five months after having nine recorded workouts since early February for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

Rounding out the field are Stephanoatsee, Son of a General, and Hattaash.

This is the 83rd running of the Ben Ali, which was first run at the old Kentucky Association track in 1917. Wise Dan won the 2012 renewal by 10 1/2 lengths in his first start of the year.

After Sunday, Keeneland goes dark for two days before the final three-day span of the meet commences Wednesday. Churchill Downs opens the following Saturday night, April 27.