04/12/2013 5:07PM

Keeneland: Wise Dan wins Maker's 46 Mile in 2013 debut

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Wise Dan, the reigning Horse of the Year, starts his 2013 campaign with a length victory over Data Link in the Maker's 46 Mile. Jose Lezcano rode.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Wise Dan, the 2012 Horse of the Year, made a successful and well-received return to action Friday when he was kept clear of traffic throughout by jockey Jose Lezcano in capturing the 25th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland.

Charlie LoPresti, who trains Wise Dan for owner-breeder Mort Fink, seemed more relieved than elated after the 6-year-old gelding drove to a one-length victory over Data Link.

"I didn't have him totally cranked up today," said Lopresti. "He's just got that desire to win."

Wise Dan returned $2.80 as a heavy favorite after finishing the distance in 1:36.37 over a course that took substantial overnight moisture but still was rated firm. Mr. Commons finished third, another two lengths back, followed by Skyring and Silentio.

After breaking from the outside post in a field of five older turf horses, Wise Dan raced several paths from the inner rail as Silentio maintained a slight early lead over Skyring. Circling that pair on the far turn, Wise Dan took command approaching the furlong pole, quickly spurted clear, then was kept to pressure to hold off Data Link, the defending Maker's 46 champion and the 7-2 second choice.

LoPresti said his most pressing concern coming into the Maker's 46 was a five-month layoff, but when set down for the drive, Wise Dan "kicked it on hard alone. He's just a good horse."

Lezcano was riding Wise Dan in place of John Velazquez, who was injured last weekend in a spill at Aqueduct but is expected back in time for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. It was the second time for Lezcano to ride the gelding, as he was aboard here last fall in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile when Velazquez had a scheduling conflict.

Wise Dan, by Wiseman's Ferry out of Lisa Danielle, now has won 14 of 21 career starts, with the $186,000 winner's share bumping his career bankroll to $3,727,638.

Wise Dan was voted the Horse of the Year award by a decisive margin last year after winning 5 of 6 races, ending with a rousing victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. LoPresti once again is aiming the gelding to the Breeders' Cup, although no specific race has yet been mentioned, and said his next start could come on dirt in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June.  The Foster was the only race he lost last year.

Wise Dan became the 10th of the last 11 Horse of the Year honorees to win his comeback upon a return to racing. He was the first reigning Horse of the Year to make his first start the following year at 76-year-old Keeneland.

Ontrack attendance on a chilly afternoon was 15,406.

The $2 exacta (5-4) paid $6.20, and the $1 trifecta (5-4-2) was worth $7.