10/08/2010 4:43PM

Wise Dan fires first time back from layoff in Phoenix

Coady Photography
Wise Dan gives jockey Rafael Bejarano the first of two stakes wins on Friday's card at Keeneland in the Phoenix.



LEXINGTON, Ky. – Wise Dan, a 3-year-old previously eligible for a second-level allowance condition, might well have run himself right into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint when he defeated older horses Friday in the 158th running of the Grade 3, $173,000 Phoenix Stakes on opening day of the Keeneland fall meet.


Given a good inside stalking trip by Rafael Bejarano, Wise Dan overhauled Hollywood Hit in the final furlong in winning by a half-length. Warrior’s Reward was another three lengths back in third in a field of 11.

Wise Dan ($15.20), bred and owned by Morton Fink, had not raced in more than five months and was making just his fourth career start. He earned $105,000 from his stakes debut and now is eligible to run in the $2 million BC Sprint on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs by virtue of the Win and You’re In designation carried by the Phoenix.

“This horse has been very fast in the mornings, freaky fast,” said winning trainer Charlie Lopresti. “The owner said if you think he’s that good to run him against older horses off the bench, go ahead. I’m glad we did.”

Hollywood Hit, a Canadian invader sent away the 2-1 favorite, raced longshot Goldzar into defeat and held an open lead passing the furlong pole, but Wise Dan was able to surge past after Bejarano angled him off the rail for a clear run.

“I just tried to stay behind the favorite, then make my move,” said Bejarano, a four-time Keeneland riding champion who moved to Southern California in 2007. Thirty minutes after the feature, Bejarano won the biggest race on the day, the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes, aboard Wickedly Perfect.

Wise Dan, a Kentucky-bred by Wiseman’s Ferry, finished six furlongs in 1:09.20 over Polytrack. The gelding won a maiden race by 15 lengths at Turfway Park in March, then a first-level allowance on the May 1 Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill before being sidelined by soreness in a cannon bone, according to Lopresti.

The victory capped a terrific recent streak for the locally based Lopresti, who got the first Grade 1 of his career when Here Comes Ben captured the Forego at Saratoga this summer.

Warrior’s Reward, the 5-2 second choice, made a sustained outside run after trailing much of the way and definitely will be pointed to the BC Sprint, said trainer Ian Wilkes.