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Monday, May 27, 2013


Horse of the Year Wise Dan Deserving of Higher Profile


SARATOGA SPRINGS, MAY 27, 2013—It must be a sign of elongating teeth that I cannot recall if it was the late, great Charles Hatton, or the late, great Joe Hirsch, who would rattle off a list of Thoroughbreds that made the running of a particular race especially memorable.

“The previous winners of [big race here] read like a roll of drums,” they would write. If either were alive today, some of the names they might drop in advance of the storied Metropolitan Handicap, better known as the Met Mile, would be as follows:

Kelso, Carry Back, Gun Bow, Buckpasser, Forego (a horse so nice he won it twice), as did Gulch.

And they might have followed those up with underappreciated Criminal Type, the brilliant Ghostzapper, and a pair of super-fast three-year-olds; Holy Bull and Conquistador Cielo--a winner of the Met Mile five days before stretching out his noted speed the mile and a half of the Belmont Stakes.

Well, there are no Derby-aged runners in the Memorial Day renewal and probably--no disrespect intended--only one, Flat Out, has won a true world class event, even if it only took place in Elmont.

And not even would this uber game seven-year-old—"hickory," as those legendary Daily Racing Form writers might have described him--gets racing hearts a-pumping.

Today’s race would have been a perfect spot for defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan to raise his sporting profile but, since he’s a gelding, his connections, primarily owner Morton Fink, thought only of long term big bucks.

Call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. It simply would be better for the industry if owners--who wouldn’t be invested if at first they couldn’t afford it--played the game as if it were a just that and not a business.

A reason not to would be fear of having their gallant gelding exposed as something less than--and there’s been no evidence that's true. It's only a little sad that he’s not treated like the real Horse of the Year deal. At the end of last year, there was talk of a higher profile for Wise Dan, even a 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic run.

Trainer Charlie LoPresti said he wanted to make amends for last year's unlucky Stephen Foster trip: "I would like to win that race," LoPresti recently told Blood Horse.com.

But then this: I'd like to win that race and then do everything I did last year and then make the decision if we get to the Breeders' Cup whether we go in the Mile or the Classic.”

Five days after Wise Dan won the Maker's 46 Mile in his 2013 debut on the grass, becoming the first horse in Keeneland history to win five graded stakes races, LoPresti confirmed that the Foster on Churchill Downs dirt would most likely be the next target. But after winning the Woodford Reserve, the Firecracker became the next target.

Bye-bye Stephen Foster; say hello to Dave, or Bernard Baruch.

For LoPresti and Fink, especially the 84-year-old owner, the successful brother act has been an embarrassment of homebred riches. In addition to Wise Dan, older half-sibling Successful Dan, a prominent handicap player himself, will take his famous kid brother’s place in the Foster.

Neither LoPresti nor Fink needed to run in the Met Mile. They can do as they please, and have, keeping the two separated, planning to get the money with Wise Dan by winning the same races he won last year while Successful Dan tests the waters in the Foster and Whitney, a race he was pointing toward last year until suffering a ligament injury. “We don’t want to have to run them against each other if we can help it,” LoPresti said.

“[Successful Dan] never has had a chance to run in one of these good races other than the Alysheba last year," the trainer continued. "He never got a chance to run in the Whitney [or] in any Breeders' Cup races. [But] right now he's good, and as long as Dr. Bramlage says 'OK'…"

"...Who knows, maybe we would toy with the Woodward at the end of [Saratoga] as a race for Wise Dan, but it all hinges on what Successful Dan does," Lopresti said. "I would love to have a chance to put one in the Classic and one in the grass race again, the Mile. That would be a good thing to have, two horses in the Breeders' Cup."

Wise Dan clinched Horse of the Year honors by winning the Mile and likely would repeat as best in show if he runs the lower profile table again--unless, of course, some three-year-old goes wild and runs his table, beating elders in the process.

The Horse of the Year didn’t need to run in the Met Mile, but easily could have. “Those two races took nothing out of him,” Lopresti said, referring to the Makers 46 Mile and Woodford Reserve.

All those 1s in the past performances look great but what’s more impressive are the names of the races alongside the running lines. That's what keeps the drum rolls beating.

A horse for two Breeders’ Cup races is a nice thing to have. But how much fun would it be to see brothers possibly finish 1-2 in the Classic? The chances of that happening are better than seeing siblings race against each other in some Classic to be named later.

If the horses are healthy, there's no good reason not to try. After all, weren't Kelso and Forego geldings, too?

Written by John Pricci

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