SHADWELL TURF MILE | PURSE: $750,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 MILE (TURF)
Eclipse Award contender Wise Dan came out of his Grade 1 Woodbine Mile heroics in such fine fettle that trainer Charles Lopresti didn't want to keep him in the barn until the Breeders' Cup. Thus Morton Fink's homebred was entered in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, and judging by how he crushed the opposition once again, it's clear why Lopresti couldn't hold him down.
Wise Dan overwhelmed pace factors Silver Max and Dominus turning into the stretch, and the 3-5 favorite strode clear with his customary authority. After posting a final time of 1:34 4/5 on the firm turf, Wise Dan paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.40.
Now the winner of back-to-back "Win & You're In" events for the Breeders' Cup Mile, Wise Dan is likely to take up that engagement at Santa Anita. The Classic on dirt remains a theoretical option that connections have yet to rule out, but Lopresti noted in the winner's circle that he has some concerns about how Wise Dan would take to Santa Anita's main track.
Jose Lezcano picked up the mount on the outstanding older male at Keeneland. Regular rider John Velazquez was already committed to stay at Belmont, where he would pilot well-regarded juvenile Archwarrior in Saturday's Grade 1 Champagne. As it turned out, Archwarrior wound up fourth in the Champagne, while Wise Dan looked every inch a champion.
As Silver Max went to the early lead through an opening quarter in :23 1/5, Wise Dan galloped in a ground-saving spot in midpack. But once the field straightened up down the backstretch, Wise Dan was starting to drag Lezcano forward. He advanced all on his own, with Lezcano carefully steering him into the clear on the outside. By the time Silver Max got the half in :46 4/5, Wise Dan was well within striking range, and ready to pounce.
The pace-prompting Dominus was the first to accost Silver Max on the far turn, but Wise Dan was gathering momentum with every stride. Dominus briefly took over from a weakening Silver Max, only to be summarily brushed aside by Wise Dan.
The only suspense involved the minor awards, and longshots predominated. The 48-1 longshot Willcox Inn rallied to reduce the winner's margin to 2 1/4 lengths late. The 100-1 Slip and Drive checked in third, another 2 3/4 lengths adrift. Doubles Partner got up for fourth at 11-1. Data Link, the the 7-1 second choice, was along belatedly for fifth. Dominus faded to sixth, and Corporate Jungle, Swift Warrior, Silver Max, Skyring, Worthadd and Ol Army rounded out the order of finish.
Unraced as a juvenile, Wise Dan showed ability when winning four of six starts at three. During that 2010 campaign, he captured his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland and finished a creditable sixth, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Wise Dan proved a triple-surface threat in 2011, winning the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap in his turf debut, and adding the Presque Isle Mile on Tapeta, before romping in the Grade 2 Fayette over Keeneland's Polytrack and adding the Clark trophy.
His 2012 debut was scintillating -- a 10 1/2-length conquest of the Grade 3 Ben Ali, in a track-record time of 1:46.63 on the Keeneland Polytrack. Wise Dan returned to Churchill for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 16, only to lose by a head after a tough trip. That is his only loss in his past seven races.
Wise Dan reverted to turf for the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap August 11 at Saratoga, where he posted a five-length demolition job, and came back to dominate the September 16 Woodbine Mile by 3 1/4 lengths. With this ninth career stakes victory to his credit, Wise Dan has bankrolled $2,461,638 from his 19-12-1-0 record.
The Kentucky-bred is by Wiseman's Ferry and out of the winning Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle. He is a half-brother to multiple Grade 2 victor Successful Dan, who set a new Churchill track record when taking the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 4. Another half-sibling, stakes winner Our Royal Dancer, is herself the dam of Argentinean Group 2-placed Bailando Voy.