Wise Dan gave a lot of weight, dug down deep and ran one of the fastest 1 1/16 miles on the turf in the storied history of Saratoga Race Course so his narrow win in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap had to knock him out a bit, right? Wrong.
“He might have been tired for a day after that race and then he was just like he always is,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said Friday, the day before he sends Wise Dan out in the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland Race Course.
Just like he always is, or even close to that, isn’t good news for the seven others entered in the first seven-figure race in Keeneland’s history.
Damien Rock, Wise Dan’s longtime exercise rider, told LoPresti otherwise, going so far to say the Wiseman’s Ferry gelding is even better.
That’s definitely not good news for the others.
“Damien said he’s never felt this good, that’s what he keeps telling me,” LoPresti said. “He’s doing awesome. He’s better than he was before he ran at Saratoga, training really strong. He’s doing really good. I couldn’t ask him to be doing any better.
“Monday I gave him a strong gallop, we clocked him and he went three-quarters in 1:16.8 just galloping. Freaky.”
Wise Dan is seeking his second win in the Shadwell – he beat 11 others in 2012 as the 3-5 favorite – and some redemption after finishing second to Silver Max in the rained-off edition run on the Polytrack last year.
Wise Dan’s last two runs in the Shadwell set up victories in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and subsequent Horse of the Year titles and divisional crowns as champion turf male and champion older male.
Some argue he’s got some work to do if he’s going to pull off a bunch of three-peats – LoPresti isn’t worried about that conversation just yet – and the Grade 1 Shadwell will certainly go a long way if those are the goals.
The Shadwell goes as the ninth of a stacked 10-race card at Keeneland with a post time of 5:45 p.m. A Shadwell victory would give Wise Dan three Grade 1 wins this season and would improve his record on the Keeneland grass to 4-for-5 and his career mark at 1 mile on turf to a remarkable 12-for-13.
“I’m not even thinking about that,” LoPresti said of the Horse of the Year talk. “They talked to me about that today. They said, ‘well, if he does this and that he still might not get Horse of the Year.’ I’m like, who cares? Even if he goes undefeated this year and wins the Breeders’ Cup he’s not going to be Horse of the Year. Well, how does anybody know that? I just don’t get that.
“I told Amy (LoPresti, his wife), ‘I don’t know what they want from this horse.’ Everybody loves this horse and still they want to knock him. I don’t know what the knock could be. I don’t get it. Maybe because he’s not a stallion prospect.”
LoPresti laughed after that statement, but knows Saturday will be serious business against some familiar foes.
Optimizer tested Wise Dan in the Bernard Baruch when in receipt of 11 pounds and making his first start for the farm trainer for Calumet Farm, Jose Fernandez. Optimizer picks up 10 pounds from that race and carries the same 126 that the rest of the field is assigned.
Sayaad was fourth in the Bernard Baruch and is back to try Wise Dan again. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the Street Sense colt might put some pressure on Silver Max early from his inside post, something he didn’t do in the Baruch.
Bryan Lynch ships Grand Arch from his Woodbine base. The Arch gelding was a close second in the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga and then finished a lackluster fifth in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last time out.
Then comes Seek Again, winner of the Fourstardave who gave Wise Dan a very stiff test in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic off a five-month layoff for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and owner Juddmonte Farms. Seek Again is the 7-2 second choice for the Shadwell.
“I think the race is going to set up good,” LoPresti said. “There’s enough speed to the inside of us. Hopefully that horse of Kiaran’s will go with Silver Max. There’s enough speed inside of us and I think Seek Again will be stalking us. That’s the way I see it.
“That horse of Bill’s is a nice horse. We beat him in the Woodford and he got a better trip than we did. He cut the corner and we were wide the whole way. Then he came back and broke the track record in the Fourstardave. He’s a good horse.”