Monday, September 17, 2012

Wise Dan sharp in Ricoh Woodbine Mile romp

TORONTO, September 16 - Morton Fink’s homebred Wise Dan, the prohibitive favourite at 1-2, made it look easy on Sunday, coasting to victory in the Grade 1, $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile.

Ridden by John Velazquez, who was winning a record third Mile, after victories aboard Riviera in 2000 and Leroidesanimaux in 2005, Wise Dan patiently followed the leaders Worthadd and Artic Fern through fractions of :23.78 and :46.90, before slipping through on the inside over a firm E.P. Taylor Turf Course, when the field straightened for home.

Then, under a virtual hand-ride, Wise Dan galloped away from his eight rivals, hitting the wire an effortless three and one-quarter lengths in front of a determined Hunters Bay, who was making his turf debut. Second choice Cityscape was poised for a charge on the outside in early stretch but couldn’t close on the leader and finished third, a further length behind, with Riding the River charging up for fourth. The final time was 1:34.07.

“What a nice horse,” said Velazquez. “For a horse to do this race after race and come back the way he does things is incredible. It’s nice to be on him. He’s allowing me to get him back a little bit and get him relaxed behind the horses. When he does that, he is a much better horse. Today, he broke out of there nice. When those two horses went, he actually relaxed really, really well behind them.”

Trained by Charlie Lopresti, who became the first conditioner to win back-to-back Miles after saddling last year’s longshot winner Turallure, Wise Dan arrived at Woodbine fresh from a similar romp, by five lengths, in the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga on August 11.

Not only has the Kentucky-bred five-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry won stakes on turf, but he’s also taken added-money events on both Polytrack and dirt, displaying remarkable and almost unheard of versatility. He became the shortest-priced winner ($3.10) of the Woodbine Mile since its inception in 1997, eclipsing Leroidesanimaux’s payoff of $3.30 in 2005, but only the fourth post-time favourite to prevail.

The Ricoh Woodbine Mile was a Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ event, meaning Wise Dan earned a free ticket (travel expenses and entry fees) into the Breeders’ Cup Mile, November 3 at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California. However, his connections haven’t officially ruled out a run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, at one mile and one-quarter on the dirt, although their win today only gives them a berth in the Mile.

“Mr. Fink and I will talk about and we’ll talk to Johnny (jockey Velazquez) about it,” explained Lopresti. “I said something to Johnny about the Classic and he said, ‘The grass is good, but we won’t rule the other one out (Breeders’ Cup Classic) as well.’ We will see how he comes out and take it from there. I think he is better on synthetic and turf. I honestly do.”

It was the third win in four starts this year for Wise Dan, who earlier took the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland by 10 ½ lengths before tasting defeat in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, falling a head short of Ron the Greek at Churchill Downs in June.

Overall, Wise Dan has taken 11 of 18 career starts, and with today’s purse of $600,000 surpassed the $2-million mark in earnings.

“Yes, he is an unbelievable horse,” said Fink. “After 40 years of trying, it’s an incredible feeling. I think he is good on anything as he’s proved, but I think he is a little better on the grass. But you can’t turn down a Classic. There are no superstars, I don’t think, around this year.”

“I could see Johnny V (Velazquez) sitting so quiet on Wise Dan. I thought we'd have a hard time to catch him, but he gave it everything he could,” said jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, about runner-up Hunters Bay. “But he did what I thought he would. He handled it (the turf) and he ran like a true champ.”

Wise Dan paid $3.10, $2.70 and $2.10, combining with Hunters Bay ($6.30, $4.40) for a $27.30 (3-6) exactor. A 3-6-7 (Cityscape, $2.90 to show) triactor returned $131 while a $1 superfecta [3-6-7-1 (Riding the River)] was worth $262.80.

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