He never backed down from a fight, and wherever they entered him, he ran. In five Grade 1 races and a pair of Grade 2 events, the only male in North America to take home four Grade 1 victories, Wise Dan galloped his way through the most consistent season delivered by a racehorse in 2013 -- year-end honors firmly in his sights.
Last season, the chestnut son of modest stallion Wiseman's Ferry swept Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year, Older Male, and Male Turf Horse, the first runner to do so since John Henry in 1981. This year he was a finalist in the three categories again, and received older male honors for the second time in a row after easily sewing up a male turf horse repeat over multiple Grade 1 winner Point of Entry and Breeders' Cup Turf winner Magician.
Morton Fink's homebred runner beat Mucho Macho Man, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, and multiple grade I winner Game On Dude for older male, a category traditionally dominated by dirt handicap contenders. He won six of seven starts on the lawn, toting high weight five times and racing at five different tracks in Kentucky, New York, Canada, and California over a seven-month period.
"If anything, I think he had a better year than last year," trainer Charlie LoPresti said. "He won races with weight put on him, we never scratched him; he was the most consistent horse all season."
Wise Dan took the Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland on firm turf in April, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the Firecracker Handicap over very wet going at Churchill Downs in May and June, defended his title in the Foustardave Handicap at Saratoga Race Course in August, and set a course record at Woodbine with a sparkling 1:31.75 repeat in September's Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
LoPresti did not shirk an edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile moved to Polytrack in an October deluge back at Keeneland, and despite racing wide on both turns over the soggy surface, Wise Dan ran a good second to frontrunner Silver Max. He rebounded in November with another victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile, the race he took in 2012 in a record 1:31.78 at Santa Anita Park. This year, Wise Dan overcame trouble just after the start and closed from eighth in a 10-horse field to register by three-quarters of a length under Jose Lezcano.
"The more you're around him, the more you realize how special he is," LoPresti said. "Even in the Shadwell, he tried his heart out on a track that was like running in the Florida Everglades. Even in defeat, he showed up. They just don't come around that often, horses like him -- the soundness of him, the ability It's just a dream come true to have horse like that."
Bred in Kentucky by Fink out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, in 2013 Wise Dan registered a 6-1-0 record from seven starts good for earnings of $2,751,972. His career totals are 19-2-0 from 27 starts, with earnings of $6,293,610.
"It's truly amazing that I'm here again," Fink said. "Last year, I thought, was the height of my career, and Wise Dan just keeps going and going."
The votes below represent only first-place votes from members of the consolidated voting entities, NTRA, Daily Racing Form, and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters:
Wise Dan, 123; Mucho Macho Man, 93; Game On Dude, 31; Flat Out, 2.