Spa Stars: Wise Dan tops the marquee

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The easy and predictable question is which race Wise Dan will show up in now that he’s back on the scene of one of the biggest victories in his Horse of the Year campaign a year ago. An even bigger and more interesting question is whether he’ll continue to surprise the man who perhaps knows him best when he starts at Saratoga Race Course in 2013.

“He surprises me every time,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said earlier this week, standing far enough from the sleepy champ’s stall to allow him to continue to recover from an overnight van ride from Lexington to Saratoga. “I just say to myself, everyday, ‘when is this going to end?’ And I hate to say it that way because I’m not looking for that. I don’t want it to tend. But I know how lucky I am to have a horse like this. People work their whole lives for one like this.

“And I’ve heard people compare him to Forego and Kelso and horses like that. And I’ve heard him talked about like the greats. They say belongs with them or he doesn’t belong with them. I’m not worried about that though because he’s pretty special to me. If he never wins another race he’ll be special to me. I won a Breeders’ Cup race with him, three Eclipse Awards with him. He’s pretty neat.”

Neat is certainly one word to describe Wise Dan, arguably the best horse in training on the Saratoga grounds. He makes quick and tidy work of his opponents. He is riding a seven-race win streak that started in last year’s Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.

Wise Dan could start again in the Aug. 10 Fourstardave, which was shortened to a mile last year and given a $200,000 purse hike this year to $500,000. He could also show up in the Whitney Invitational a week earlier. If Wise Dan runs in that $750,000 race, he’ll meet defending Whitney and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned.

That mouth-watering possibility will deserving keep people talking about Wise Dan, and Fort Larned, too, for that matter, in the same breaths as some of racing’s legends.

But for now it’s time to settle in, bounce back from the long van ride and get readjusted to Saratoga. Wise Dan went out in the second set Thursday, regular rider Damien Rock giving him his cues. Just like Wise Dan he trained well on Saratoga’s main track.

LoPresti doesn’t expect it to take long for Wise Dan to get back to where he was when he left Keeneland earlier this week. Good news for him. Bad news for anyone thinking of running in the Fourstardave or the Whitney.

“When we left Keeneland this horse was spot on,” LoPresti said. “I can tell you I would not have been afraid if there was a race this weekend to just ship him in and run, the way he was at Keeneland.

“And I really haven’t breezed him. They put a watch on him when he’s galloping and sometimes you’ll see people say he’s not on a breeze schedule. The other day they got him going three-eighths in :39 and then a second three-eighths in :38, just galloping along. That’s enough for me. That’s why his worktab, a lot of times people think it’s spotty. I watch him train everyday. When this horse is fit and running, the way he trains, you’ll catch him between poles sometimes throwing 12s and 13s in there.”