05/04/2014 11:32AM

Wise Dan's connections will wait to decide on Woodford followup

Barbara D. Livingston
The two-time defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan won the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard Saturday at Churchill Downs, and his connections will wait to decide on his followup race.

Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan emerged from a hard-fought Woodford Reserve victory at Churchill Downs in good shape, trainer Charlie LoPresti said Sunday morning, the day after the race.

LoPresti said he and owner Mort Fink will take a wait-and-see approach in deciding in which race to run Wise Dan next. His inclination is to wait until Saratoga before returning him to the races, with the Aug. 9 Fourstardave Handicap, a Grade 2 race at a mile on turf, being the most likely target.

The Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on dirt June 14 at Churchill will also be considered.

“We’ll at least look at it,” he said.

Wise Dan, a 7-year-old Wiseman’s Ferry gelding, hasn’t raced on dirt in nearly two years since he ran second, beaten a head by Ron The Greek, in the 2012 Stephen Foster. Since that time, he has been entered strictly in turf races, though one race, the Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 5 of last year, was moved to Keeneland’s Polytrack surface after a downpour that afternoon. He ran second in that race.

Some racing observers have expressed a desire to see the connections of Wise Dan branch him out into different races this year, testing him outside of the mile to 1 1 /8-mile turf races in which he has proven virtually unbeatable. He is 13 for 14 in such races over his career, with his only loss coming when fourth in the 2011 Shadwell.

He did not appear as invincible Saturday in the Woodford, winning by a head – his smallest margin of victory in any of his 13 turf victories. And though his time for 1 1/8 miles on firm turf was 1:47.73, he earned just a 94 Beyer Speed Figure, marking the first time he had not run at least a 100 Beyer since he posted a 97 Beyer in winning the Fayette on Keeneland’s Polytrack in the fall of 2011.

LoPresti feels the close call in Saturday’s Woodford was the result of the quality of Seek Again, as well as the trip Wise Dan had. Early in the race, jockey John Velazquez took Wise Dan off the leading duo, and Wise Dan resented the restraint, throwing his head up. He raced three wide thereafter, while Seek Again saved ground on the second turn, rallying up the hedge.

Wise Dan currently trains at Keeneland, but that could change in the coming weeks. With Keeneland replacing its Polytrack main track with dirt, Wise Dan and others based there will have to train over the small Polytrack training track beginning in the middle to late part of this month when main track construction begins.

Most horsemen there find the training track adequate for galloping but inadequate for breezing due to its tight turns and configuration. So LoPresti and some other trainers that have long stabled there will have stalls at Churchill Downs. LoPresti plans to shuttle horses in and out of Churchill depending on their breeze and race schedules.

That could result in Wise Dan training at Churchill later this spring, particularly if the Foster becomes more of a possibility.

As for Seek Again, the Woodford runner-up, he seems likely to go in another direction than Wise Dan.

“We've got to decide if we're going to give him a try in the Manhattan,” his trainer, Bill Mott, said in reference to the Grade 1, $1 million race on turf on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 7.

The Manhattan Handicap is at 1 1/4 miles, the distance over which Seek Again won the Hollywood Derby last year.

Boisterous, the third-place finisher in the Woodford Reserve, would seem another candidate for the Manhattan, having already won a Grade 1 on the Belmont turf last July in the Man o’ War Stakes.

Murray West More than 1 year ago
The criticisms directed toward Wise Dan and his turf campaigns are becoming increasingly intolerable. Why is it not possible for people to enjoy what he has brought, and continues to bring,to this sport? He is without doubt one of the greatest and courageous Thoroughbreds to have ever graced the American turf. Had he been born and competed in Europe, Australia, or Japan, he would be deemed a National Treasure. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for those of us in America who understand his true greatness, he is American through and through. In his career he has, perhaps arguably, dominated his "division" (turf miler) more than any other horse in the history of racing has dominated the area of his or her specialty (eg dirt sprinter, dirt miler, turf route, dirt classic distance, etc). I hope I would be open minded if it is pointed out one I have over looked of comparable greatness over such a span, but I welcome comparisons. His defining characteristic, aside from his incredible talent, is his incomparable courage. One must go back to Affirmed to find another of similar character, absolutely refusing to be defeated, near ready to give his very life upon the track such is his need to prevail. Why not just accept this greatness, limited if you choose to see it that way, but sheer greatness regardless. and yes, I tend to agree with those who said his invincibility appears to be coming to an end...and so it should! The old fellow is now 7 years of age. No Thoroughbred has ever dominated like him at 6 never mind 7. This is the way of nature, and so it should be. It is time for him to move aside for the next champion...it is the way it always has and always will be in all arenas of competition. For those who still doubt, how many times has Dan been defeated once he gets a head in front? None! How many outstanding horses have looked him in the eye and come up short against the great chestnut? All of them! For 2 1/2 years we have borne witness to one of the greatest horses to ever run, here or anywhere in the world. I have followed racing now for over 60 years, and during that time have seen some of the very, very best, and have myself been associated with some very fine animals. Perhaps you do not like that he is a miler...genetics determined that. Perhaps you don't like that he is vastly superior on the turf, while choosing to forget that he is also a G1 winner on dirt...genetics and management determined that. Perhaps you are offended that he was chosen HOY on 2 occasions in a nation that emphasizes dirt racing...the dirt horses determined that by way of failing to capitalize on opportunities to steal the crown. Dan, for his part, did what he does, not 50% or 75% of the time, but 100% of the time, always bringing his class and courage and laying it on the line EVERY time. To speak in disparaging terms about such an animal is beyond belief, comparable to the idiocy which surrounded the Rachel/Zenyatta debates a few years back. Dan will soon be gone, I suspect, for I believe he has indeed lost a step. When the inevitable defeat occurs, however, it will come in Wise Dan style, with ears pinned tight to his head, fire in his eyes, grand muscles bulging, and his huge heart giving everything that his old body is still capable of giving. Twenty or thirty years from now, when many of us are gone, racing people will speak reverently about the grand old red gelding who refused to be defeated. Talk will lead, as it always should, to discussion of some youngster burning up the track, leaving others in his wake, the next super horse. Some old timer will look knowingly on, nod his head, and quietly say to no one in particular, "Yep, he's a real nice horse, a real special horse indeed...but he's no Wise Dan!" Murray West Quit knocking the horse, and just appreciate what we have.
Rob K More than 1 year ago
Nice write up. My thoughts exactly. To add, I thought Wise Dan might earn something of a special interest story on the NBC broadcast as one of the best racehorses of our time but no they had to get Johnny Weir his air time right up until close to post. Wise Dan is getting long in the tooth and will suffer a defeat but my gosh lets give him the kudos he deserves while he is still winning.
mike More than 1 year ago
Mr. West, Brilliant writing and thank you for taking time to comment. Couldn't agree with you more. Can't stand the ungrateful idiots who care nothing about any horse,just to knock them. Wise Dan encountered the problem Saturday cause of #1 post and fighting his rider,not convinced he's lost a step just yet. Appreciate there's a few individuals out there that care for the horse and not just what friggin Beyer number they ran. BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rebecca Lawyer More than 1 year ago
Amen, Dr. West! I'm with ya!
G More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan, winner on dirt and turf at a mile Nd over. 6.8 million dollars earned. 21 wins from 29 starts. What more does a horse of such talent have to do? Personally I believe he has proven himself!
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Great race Saturday, a champion finds a way to win. I thgought I had him with the 10. I needed the 10 for a big pic 3 as I had the 9 in the previous race and then singled the 5 in Derby. Also needed him for pic 4 as well. Just got beat by a true champ.
Greg More than 1 year ago
Hello, hes a turf horse at a mile or 1 1/8.
G More than 1 year ago
He also has won on dirt in graded stakes at 1 1/8 mile.
JeAnna Ramirez More than 1 year ago
To all the naysayers who keep trying to win money betting against Wise Dan, and then slam the horse because YOU lost money. Next time he races don't bet the race. Just watch it and enjoy the Champion.
mike More than 1 year ago
therealdubwhite Really? What would please you? Stupid remark,always some knucklehead trying to tear a horse down. Grown a brain,seriously!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
mike More than 1 year ago
Hector Lebron Do you have a horse that's won nearly 7mil? I don't,but bet you own twenty,right? LMAO Stop being an idiot!
mike More than 1 year ago
Hector Lebron Moron!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dave More than 1 year ago
Last year I was really hoping they'd try him on dirt. I think that moment has passed from what I've seen in his last 2 races. I'm not trying to knock him, far from it, but he doesn't seem like he's as good as he was so why take him out of his comfort zone?
G More than 1 year ago
He has won graded stakes on dirt.
Dave More than 1 year ago
I know. That's why last year when he looked literally unbeatable I was saying run him on dirt. But then he lost on Poly on Keeneland, and his last two wins have not been super impressive.
Richard More than 1 year ago
LOL Tell the so called big boys to come try him on the turf.He is the champ why should he go out of his comfort zone and run on a surface that he cant be at his best.If you want to take him on enter against him on his surface otherwise SHUT UP...