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Keeneland: Wise Dan brings exceptional speed and talent to Shadwell Turf Mile
By Marty McGee
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The accolade “freak” is overused in racing, as any first-time starter winning by open lengths might be labeled as such.
But when racing fans call Wise Dan a freak, they do it with sincerity, often with wide eyes and a shaking head. Some of the performances turned in by the 5-year-old gelding have been truly mind-blowing, including his most recent appearance at Keeneland in the spring and more recent back-to-back victories in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Fourstardave and the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile. Wise Dan has posted triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in his last five starts, with a high of 117 for his 10 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Ben Ali here in the spring.
Even Charlie Lopresti, who trains Wise Dan for owner-breeder Morton Fink, sometimes finds it hard to believe how fast the horse runs.
“It’s nothing I’ve done,” said the ever-modest Lopresti. “He’s just a horse with incredible talent. My job is to keep him healthy and happy and get him to the races in the best shape we can.”
The widely anticipated next race for Wise Dan comes Saturday in the richest race on the biggest day of the 17-day Keeneland fall meet. Eleven others have entered to try him in 27th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile, a Win and You’re In race toward the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. The Shadwell is one of five graded races, including two other Grade 1’s, on a sensational 10-race card which starts at 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
Lopresti did not commit Wise Dan to the Shadwell until Tuesday after consulting at length with Fink. A primary issue was the timing: It will be just three weeks since Wise Dan dominated the Woodbine Mile by 3 1/4 lengths, and then it will be four more weeks to the BC Mile.
“I thought, you know, if I don’t run, I’m going to have to breeze this horse probably Saturday or next Tuesday or somewhere along in there, and then I’m going to have to work him two, maybe more times for the Breeders’ Cup,” said Lopresti. “And I thought: You know what, all I really have to do is lead him across the street and run him. And maybe I’m doing the wrong thing, but it’s kind of hard to look into the crystal ball. But the horse has never been better. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it.”
With regular rider John Velazquez already committed to ride Saturday at Belmont Park, Lopresti has turned to Jose Lezcano as a substitute for the Shadwell. Clearly it will be incumbent upon Lezcano to keep the speedy Wise Dan (post 5) going at a controlled early clip, as several other speed horses, most notably Silver Max (post 10) and Dominus (post 11), are in the Shadwell lineup.
Dominus, with Julien Leparoux riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, is something of the wild card after winning the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch with authority in his last race. The Baruch came in the colt’s turf debut after seven starts on dirt, and widespread thinking is that with his pedigree (by Smart Strike out of a Lord At War mare), his brightest days might well be on grass.
Silver Max, one of three 3-year-olds in the field, will be trying to rebound off a disappointing effort in the Aug. 18 Secretariat Stakes, a race that snapped a six-race winning streak.
“We’ll see what he’s made of,” said trainer Dale Romans. “I think he’s a very talented horse. He’s shown it all year, and now he needs to step up and go to the next level.”
Logical stretch-running candidates to perhaps benefit from a too-fast tempo include Data Link (post 7), winner of the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile here in the spring; Doubles Partner (post 2), another Pletcher trainee and a very consistent sort; and Corporate Jungle (post 3), runner-up to Wise Dan in the Aug. 11 Fourstardave at Saratoga.
Completing the field are Skyring, Willcox Inn, Worthadd, Slip and Drive, Ol Army, and Swift Warrior.
The Shadwell, first run in 1986, had its purse increased by $150,000 this year through more sponsorship money from the powerhouse farm owned by Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum. It is now tied with the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, run in spring, as the richest race at Keeneland.
Weather conditions for the second day of the meet are not supposed to be very pleasant, with the forecast calling for a good chance of rain and a high temperature of only 55.
The Shadwell is set for 5:21 p.m. as the ninth of 10 races and the last of five straight stakes. Preceding it are the Grade 3 Woodford (race 5, 3:13), the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America (race 6, 3:45), the Grade 1 First Lady (race 7, 4:17), and the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (race 8, 4:49).
"“It’s nothing I’ve done,” said the ever-modest Lopresti. “He’s just a horse with incredible talent. My job is to keep him healthy and happy and get him to the races in the best shape we can.” Spoken like a true horseman. Peeps should have payed attention to this guy 20 yrs ago.
It seems Wise Dan is much the best in this, using Data Link, Doubles Partner and Willcox Inn in exacta's with Wise Dan. Data Link loves keen turf and his best bayer is on this with diistance. Doubles Partner likes distance and Willcox Inn has a lot of graded stakes wins, seems trainer gets him ready for the big ones. I'm kind of teetering in Skyring hes back to a distance he won on and got rail, so he might get to lead and hang on late
Eric I agree with everything you said except for the Horse Of The Year part, there is a horse by the name of Point Of Entry who IMO deserves strong consideration for HOTY, if he were to win the B.CTurf then you are looking at our HOTY IMO. Wise Dan is in career form and no question if he were to win the Shadwell and the B.C.Mile then it would be a coin flip between Wise Dan and Point Of Entry with P.O.E. my choice for it all.
This race is Wise Dan's, IMHO!
Wise Dan has had an exceptional year - he started off with a track record performance at Keeneland on the synthetic, lost by a head next out on the dirt at Churchill (his only less than stellar performance) and has won two turf miles - easily. With only 4 starts he is still fresh. If he is going good - he should be able to run in the Shadwell and the BC Turf Mile. If this year's BC was on synthetic I would agree with the poster below who feels WD shoudl go in the classic. On dirt, he seems more vulnerable and I definitely think he would be more volunerable at a mile and a 1/4 than at a mile or a mile and an 1/8th. The Shadwell is a large field and Wise Dan towers over all of these - not needing the lead he can sit right off the pace and power home. If he wins this race and the BC mile he's my hourse of the year without question - Game On Dude, Ron the Greek, Flat Out - none of them measure up in my mind. If Dullahan could win this weekend and then win the BC classic (and get his 1st dirt win) - he would deserve consideration - other wise - it's WD's world and we are just living in it!
Unless you have inside info,don't waste your gambling dollars anywhere else except at keene.. Best takeout,fields and payoffs.
Hats off to Lopresti. Great strategy to race this horse into the BC. He's a free running animal who probably does too much in the mornings anyway. Regardless of the direction they point him next month, he will be the horse to beat in the race they place him.
i love Wise Dan i think he is the best horse stateside at the minute, i think he would get the classic distance and they should run him in the classic, which in my eyes is easier than the mile and will do more for his stud value stateside. either way look forward to seeing him win saturday
i love the jockey selection i think jose is one of the best jockey out there...i loved him from a bug boy...am just glad ..they ,the racing world finally noticed......SIRNEIL..
I wish lopresti did better than Jose (how will he blow this race) Lezcano. He's a stiff,and you need a better jock in a full field like this. Trouble awaits for WD,i just hope he stays healthy during the race.
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