Saturday, August 10, 2013
Wise Dan Very Impressive But No Closer to Horse of the Year Repeat
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY August 10, 2013---The Horse of the Year runs today but somehow it’s tomorrow that holds a more interest for this race fan. Maybe it’s because going in Wise Dan has been there and has done this before, in last year’s Fourstardave in fact.
On Sunday, however, it’s all about the future, unknown challenges in store for young, inexperienced horses that are being asked to do things they’ve never done before; at distances, on surfaces, under conditions, and against competition that have the same profile—promising futures.
In the Adirondack Stakes, the puzzle is whether Fiftyshadesofgold is as good as her first two races say she is, especially her most recent start, Churchill’s Debutante, which she won as impressively and effortlessly as horses can. But this is Saratoga, where scores can really change.
Thirty minutes later, it will be young boys out to prove which has the most upside--not only in the day’s Saratoga Special but beyond. Wired Bryan sure looked like the goods winning the Sanford here opening weekend; two wins from two starts by an aggregate 12-½ lengths.
And what about Corfu, who put away multiple challenges and held doggedly to break maiden in his debut? Or Candy Dandy, much the best in his maiden breaker at Churchill, or Danza, who proved to Permanent Campaign and observers he just wants to beat you. Check the videos.
While you still have hold of the mouse, check out Lunarwarfare winning his debut at Gulfstream. Of course a facile win at 4-1/2 furlongs is meaningless, especially when shipping up, moving up, and stretching out to meet the challenge of your young life.
Whatever the dynamic, it was an amazing performance by a previously unraced youngster. Maybe he is as good as the performance indicates; maybe he isn’t and owner-trainer Michael Yates is only here to test the private-purchase market.
Whatever happens tomorrow, it will be more intriguing than seeing something a Horse of the Year has done before, seven out of eight times. Make it eight out nine now, and kudos to the defending champion to accomplish it in the manner seen over a course made good by Friday’s heavy rains.
The sad part, though, is that it’s unlikely Wise Dan will ever be as popular as Fourstardave, a New York bred who never was Horse of the Year or anything close, but who accepted every challenge owner Richard Bomze and trainer Leo O’Brien demanded of him.
Fourstardave made over a million the old fashioned way; beating up on his ilk. But it was his exploits at the old Spa that made him the people’s horse, one they would name a street after--Fourstardave Way—just outside the clubhouse gates.
Fourstardave had a remarkable 100-race career, winning 21 and finishing in-the-money on 55 occasions. As a 9-year-old, he won a race at Saratoga for eight consecutive years, one for every win that Wise Dan has going a mile on grass.
Like Woody’s five Belmonts, or Jonathan Sheppard’s 45-year win streak at Saratoga, don’t look for that standard to fall anytime soon. But say this about Wise Dan in today’s featured Grade 2: It’s a race that won’t be forgotten by anyone that saw it.
The numbers are as follows: After tracking an ever improving and speedy King Kreesa in the pocket through moderate fractions of :24.24 and :47.48, he was tipped off the fence by Johnny Velasquez reached three-quarters on even terms with the leader, six furlongs in 1:10.59.
And the tempo increased once again as the defending champion responded to stout hand drive, coming his final quarter-mile in :23.01, making that last half in a stout 46.12 seconds and stopping the timer at 1:34 for the mile.
And so Wise Dan added 60 percent of a half-million dollars to the purse account of owner Morton Fink and trainer Charlie Lopresti but did little to insure that he will defend his Horse of the Year title even if he runs the one-mile-on turf, weight-for-age table.
In 2012, everything broke perfectly for him to snatch the Horse of the Year title. This year, the handicap dirt division is salty and deeper than it was last year. Further, there is the possibility that one of two Todd Pletcher-trained 3year-olds; Belmont-Jim Dandy winner Palace Malice, or Wood Memorial-Haskell winner Verrazano, will defeat their elders this fall.
But for Saturday, August 10, the day belonged to impressive Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who ran down New York-bred miler King Kreesa in the shadow of the Spa wire.