Wise Dan commands total respect
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.
Trainer Jeremiah Englehart stood out on the racetrack and applauded Wise Dan as he was brought back to the winner’s circle following Saturday’s $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.
It was a classy gesture of respect, especially considering that it was his horse, King Kreesa, whom the reigning Horse of the Year had just beaten by 1 1/4 lengths to successfully defend his title in the Grade 2 Fourstardave.
Wise Dan not only won the Fourstardave for the second straight year, but he did it carrying 129 pounds, conceding 12 pounds apiece to King Kreesa and third-place finisher Lea. He also came within 0.58 seconds of the course record, completing a mile in 1:34.00 despite running over a surface softened by heavy rains the previous day and officially rated “good.”
Wise Dan benefited from another picture-perfect ride by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Rated early while saving ground just off the early pace of King Kreesa for six furlongs, Wise Dan eased out to commence his rally approaching the stretch, overtook the game leader inside the eighth pole, and gradually edged clear under a hand ride after Velazquez took one peek back to assure himself that the outcome was no longer in doubt.
King Kreesa set a moderate pace, posting splits of 24.24 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.48 for the half, and dug in bravely when engaged by the winner but proved no match while easily second-best.
Lea made a mild run three wide on the second bend but could not sustain the bid. He was followed by Mr. Commons, Willyconker and Skyring. Za Approval was scratched.
Wise Dan, a 6-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry owned and bred by Morton Fink and trained by Charlie LoPresti, paid $2.80 while remaining unbeaten in his last eight starts dating back to his victory in the 2012 Fourstardave.
“I was worried about the weight,” LoPresti said. “I know it’s only a pound more [than he carried in winning the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap in his previous start], but I was worried about it. I never gave any thoughts to these weights earlier in the year, and then when we decided to run in the Firecracker, people started to talk about it.
“But to prove he’s a great horse, like everyone is talking about, he has to carry that weight. He has to prove it, and today I think he proved he’s a very good horse.”
LoPresti said he was worried about King Kreesa, especially after seeing the early fractions of the race.
“That horse didn’t go down easy,” LoPresti said. “That 24 and change worried me, and he’s a nice horse. He came into this race good and was the one I worried about the most. But when [Wise Dan] cruised up to him on equal terms, he went right by him, and I think Johnny just kind of rode him out.”
LoPresti said he’ll wait to see how much the race took out of Wise Dan and then discuss his options with the owner.
“Maybe Woodbine, maybe Keeneland, maybe both,” said LoPresti, referring to the Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Turf Mile. “We’ll just kind of see how it goes. I would say he’ll stay on the grass. We’ve got his big brother [Successful Dan]. He’s doing really well, and it would be really neat to have both of them in the Breeders’ Cup in two different races.”
As for Englehart, he was ecstatic with the performance of the New York-bred King Kreesa, even in defeat.
“I got beat by the Horse of the Year,” Englehart said. “My horse ran his eyeballs out. He dug in all the way when he came up alongside of him. I’m happy with that.”