04/22/2012 4:16PM

Keeneland: Wise Dan sets track record in Ben Ali romp

Keeneland/Coady Photography
The 5-year-old gelding Wise Dan, ridden by John Velazquez, sets a course and stakes record winning the Ben Ali.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Charlie Lopresti saved the best for last, as Wise Dan set a course and stakes record when he cruised  to an eye-popping 10 1/2-length victory under John Velazquez in the Grade 3, $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes on a cold Sunday afternoon at Keeneland.

The third and last of the older handicap stars trained by Lopresti to compete at the Keeneland spring meet, Wise Dan appeared to be running off after taking the lead entering the backstretch of the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race. But the 5-year-old Wise Dan just never stopped getting farther ahead, as he stopped the timer in 1:46.63, the fastest for the distance since Keeneland installed its synthetic surface 5 1/2 years ago and fastest for the distance in the 82-year history of the Ben Ali.

Earlier at the meet, Successful Dan won an April 6 allowance race and Turallure was narrowly beaten in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile on April 13. Wise Dan, like those other two, was favored when returning from a substantial layoff when making his first start in more than five months Sunday.

“I was worried about the layoff, just like I was for Successful Dan and Turallure,” said Lopresti. “But he’s just a good horse, a really good horse.”

Wise Dan, bred and owned by Morton Fink, returned $3.60 with his ninth victory from 15 lifetime starts. The gelding has been remarkably versatile, having won graded stakes on dirt, turf, and synthetic.

Going into the first turn, Wise Dan settled behind Eye of the Leopard and Rogue Romance, but with six furlongs to go, Velazquez felt compelled to let his mount go, and Wise Dan took off.

“We knew he was going to be sharp off the layoff,” said Velazquez. “I tried to settle him in the early part of race, but after I got to the three-quarter pole, I couldn’t hold him anymore. The first part of the race he was controlled, but after that I was just a passenger.”

Big Blue Kitten picked up the closest chase late in the final turn before finishing second, another 2 3/4 lengths before Guys Reward. Then came Cease, Eye of the Leopard, Ioya Bigtime, and Rogue Romance.

The clocking bested the previous records of 1:46.77 for Polytrack (Carriage Trail, 2008) and 1:46.78 for the stakes (Midway Road, 2004).