04/20/2012 11:27AM

Keeneland: Wise Dan tries to match stablemates' comeback efforts in Ben Ali

Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs
Wise Dan will be favored when he makes his 2012 debut in Sunday's Ben Ali.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Two down, one to go.

Charlie Lopresti spent many a waking moment this winter focused on how the three star older horses in his stable would perform in their returns to action at the Keeneland spring meet. And after terrific efforts by Successful Dan and Turallure, Lopresti will send out Wise Dan to try to complete that trifecta of sorts in the Grade 3, $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland.

Wise Dan, with John Velazquez to ride, will be favored when breaking from post 6 in a field of seven set to go Sunday in the 82nd running of the Ben Ali, which goes at 1 1/8 miles over Polytrack.

[MORE: Download PPs, watch and wager on Sunday's full Keeneland card]

A 5-year-old gelding by Wiseman’s Ferry, Wise Dan has won 8 of 14 starts, with his most notable victories coming last year in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on the Churchill Downs turf, the Grade 2 Fayette on the Keeneland Poly, and the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on the Churchill main track.

“He’s shown how versatile and game he is,” said Lopresti, who trains Wise Dan for breeder-owner Morton Fink. “He had a very good winter, no complaints. I just hope he runs as well as my other two horses did.”

Successful Dan won an allowance race on opening day of the Keeneland spring meet, April 6, while Turallure was a barely-beaten second a week later in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile.

Perhaps the chief opposition to Wise Dan will come from Cease (post 2, Miguel Mena) or Rogue Romance (post 3, Julien Leparoux).

Cease has developed into a reliable stakes performer for trainer Al Stall Jr., winning the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston last out. The 5-year-old Cease has raced just once on synthetic, and that was in his career debut in October 2010, but Stall is confident he will handle the surface.

“He’s trained at Keeneland all his summer life and ran well on it the one time,” said Stall. “He ran good races in the Breeders’ Cup [Marathon] and the Hawthorne Gold Cup, so he’s seen tough horses before.”

Rogue Romance, trained by Ken McPeek, earned an eye-catching 100 Beyer Speed Figure when he returned from a year-plus layoff to win a March 31 allowance at Gulfstream Park.

“We’ve always thought a whole lot of the colt,” said McPeek.

The balance of the Ben Ali cast is Eye of the Leopard, Guys Reward, Ioya Bigtime, and Big Blue Kitten. Of those, maybe Big Blue Kitten, going turf-to-Poly while getting Javier Castellano, rates the best upset shot.

First post Sunday is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Ben Ali (race 8) going at 4:42 p.m.. After Sunday, Keeneland goes dark before the final three-day stretch of the meet resumes Wednesday.

Ben Ali S. (G3), Post Time: 4:42 ET Sunday

Purse: $150,000; 1 1/8 miles





ML Odds


Eye of the Leopard

M. Pierce

S. Bridgmohan




A. Stall, Jr.

M. Mena



Rogue Romance

K. McPeek

J. Leparoux



Guys Reward

D. Romans

C. Lanerie



Ioya Bigtime

N. Pessin

C. Borel



Wise Dan

C. Lopresti

J. Velazquez



Big Blue Kitten

C. Brown

J. Castellano