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Wise Dan emerges from Phoenix into BC Sprint scene
By Mike Welsch
If trainer Charles Lopresti still had even an inkling of a notion of running his Grade 1 winner Here Comes Ben in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as opposed to his first choice, the Dirt Mile, it ended late last Friday afternoon, immediately after his up-and-coming 3-year-old Wise Dan upset Keeneland’s Grade 3 Phoenix.
“I think we’re going in the Sprint with him,” Lopresti said of Wise Dan on Tuesday. “He came out of that race really good. He didn’t really act like he ran at all. It’s pretty scary. He was awesome.”
Wise Dan was returning from a five-month layoff and moving up from a first-level allowance win in the slop at Churchill Downs on May 1 to capture the Phoenix by a half-length over Hollywood Hit. Also in his wake was Grade 1 winner Warrior’s Reward, who finished a late-running third. The victory was the third in just four career starts for Wise Dan, a gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry, owned by his breeder, Morton Fink.
“Obviously it will be an even bigger step forward to go from this race to the Sprint, but he’s a pretty fast horse,” said Lopresti. “One day he worked six furlongs at Keeneland and went in 1:12 and galloped out a mile in 1:35, and it just didn’t look like he was going that fast. With him not being that seasoned, my big question in the Phoenix was whether he could take on those older horses. I guess he answered it.”
Lopresti also confirmed that Here Comes Ben, winner of the Grade 1 Forego in his last start, would definitely run in the Dirt Mile.
“That’s pretty much been the plan all along for Ben,” said Lopresti. “I’d hate to have to run the two of them against each other anyway.”
Despite Warrior’s Reward finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind Wise Dan in the Phoenix, trainer Ian Wilkes said he is leaning towards bringing the horse back in the Sprint rather than the Dirt Mile.
“I think he has a better chance of getting the pace setup he needs in the Sprint than the Mile,” said Wilkes. “In addition, six-furlong races at Churchill Downs are really closer to 6 1/2 furlongs because of where they put the starting gate. I was really pleased with his effort at Keeneland, because he really didn’t like the track yet still managed to finish strong, which is exactly what I was looking for.”
Last weekend’s other major prep for the Sprint, the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Hollywood Park, produced one definite and perhaps as many as three potential Breeders’ Cup starters.
The connections of Smiling Tiger, who proved a game half-length winner of the Ancient Title, have already confirmed their intentions of coming to Churchill Downs for the Sprint. Trainer Bob Baffert, whose E Z’s Gentleman finished third in the Ancient Title, appears to be leaning in that direction, while John Sadler, trainer of fourth-place finisher Cost of Freedom, said he was also considering but had not yet made a firm decision regarding the status of his horse for the Sprint. Cost of Freedom came off a similar fourth-place finish in the 2009 Ancient Title to finish third, beaten a head, after setting the pace to deep stretch in last year’s Sprint.
Ancient Title runner-up Supreme Summit would have to be supplemented to participate in the Breeders’ Cup.
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