How can you beat Wise Dan? The Special’s Sarah Troxell and Sean Clancy caught up with the trainers in the Fourstardave on how to beat the Horse of the Year. He’s won seven in a row, a streak that began with the 2012 Fourstardave and includes five Grade 1 races and two Grade 2 tilts.
D. Wayne Lukas brings in Grade 2 Dixie winner and 2012 Saranac runner-up Skyring for Calumet Farm. The Hall of Famer has pulled off his share of upsets over the years and looks to do so again.
“Anytime you have a Grade 1 race with that type of horse, it’s prestigious enough. Granted, there are no easy spots when they’re Grade 1s, but we’ve got a high-quality horse, too. Obviously, Wise Dan will be the favorite, but he doesn’t have to win every race. Skyring is doing very well. The distance fits him very well. I don’t think he wanted to run that far [last time in the 11-furlong United Nations]. He’s much better going a little shorter. I feel more comfortable with this one.”
Christophe Clement tackles the Horse of the Year with Za Approval. Live Oak Plantation’s 5-year-old gelding has won three of five this year included graded stakes triumphs in the Red Bank and Appleton. Most recently, he was second in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park.
“The horse is doing great. He’s a nice horse and I hope for the best.”
John Shirreffs saddles Mr. Commons, who enters the Fourstardave off a fifth in an optional claimer here July 24. That race ended a three-month layoff for the St. George Farm Racing 5-year-old, who has lost to Wise Dan twice – the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year and the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland in April.
“For Mr. Commons to run his race, he has to do what he does best. Wise Dan is obviously Horse of the Year, and he’s a great horse. Mr. Commons’ strength going into the race is probably the fact that he’s got a lot of talent. We probably have not yet seen Mr. Commons’ best race because of a lot of different factors, where he hasn’t gotten the outside or things like that. Just one time, I’d like to see him really run his race. It was almost like he didn’t run; almost like it was a workout for him. So he’s trained well since then. It sets him up very well to run a very good race. Like they say, he’s got a race under his belt. I’m excited to take him up.”
Eric Guillot swings for the fences with Southern Equine Stable’s Irish-bred Willyconker, who makes his second start for the barn since being claimed at Hollywood Park in May. The nine-time winner finished ninth going 7 furlongs on the dirt here July 20.
“Oh, you don’t. You try to run second or third, that’s my plan. The deal is I didn’t want to lose him for a tag and they didn’t have any races that fit him, for a cheap tag. Third place is 50 grand. Fourth is 25 grand. I tried him on the dirt, that was a joke, he stuck his head in the air, didn’t like that dirt hitting him. He’s a decent turf horse, I don’t know if he’s that kind, but 25 grand for fourth wouldn’t be too bad and we’ll keep him for another day. That’s the plan.”
Jeremiah Englehart takes New York-bred King Kreesa over for the Fourstardave. The 4-year-old son of King Cugat exits back-to-back wins – in the restricted Kingston and the Grade 3 Poker. Owned by Gerald and Susan Kresa, the horse’s front-running style will have an impact on the race.
“His strength is he runs as far as he can as fast as he can, so everyone has to catch him. Very seldom does he have to worry about traffic trouble. Then again, he’s going to have to run the race of his lifetime to beat Wise Dan. The 12 pounds will definitely help a little bit. I wish it was more like 40 to 50 but it wasn’t going to be that unless it’s a jump race. He’s a horse that’s been training well, and he seems like he’s doing the same as he’s always been. So we’re looking forward to giving him a shot in a nice race like that. He trains really good anywhere that he’s been. His first two breezes at Saratoga, he seemed a little bored. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t give him the right company – if he was just better than the other horses – so we changed things up a bit in his last breeze before this race. We went to the turf, and it really picked him up nice.”
Al Stall tried Wise Dan with Lea in the Firecracker at Churchill Downs, and settled for second (2 lengths behind the champion). Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s 4-year-old has been first, second or third in all seven career starts and seeks his fifth win.
“Just hope that it’s a horse race and things happen in horse races. That’s all you can do. Course is not going to be a factor, Wise Dan’s proven over soft and our horse actually handled it well too. Post position is about the same as it was the last time, all the riders will be trying to pin him in, which is obvious. He usually has so much horse, he can get out, I’m assuming that will happen again. Maybe we can get a jump on him. Set sail. And set sail hard, right? I was really happy with his race the last time, he was coming off one off-the-turf race, around one turn in a four-horse field, that’s all he had in eighth months time, to go from there, to run in a bog against the Horse of the Year, that was a race he could have run out the back. For him to stay in there and then go on, on that kind of track against that kind of horse, I thought he did really well. Now, here we are coming back for our third go round this year, we should be a better horse. Wise Dan had plenty more foundation underneath him the last time, whether that gets us 2, 4, 5 lengths, I don’t know.”