What's next for Wise Dan?
Wise Dan came out of his adventurous triumph in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on Saturday night at Churchill Downs “without a scratch,” according to Charlie LoPresti, who kept breathing deep sighs of relief in the race’s aftermath.
LoPresti admitted to having some “What have I done?” moments before and during the Firecracker, which was run amid heavy rain. Wise Dan, carrying 128 pounds, was blocked in traffic much of the way, then brushed the inside hedge and bobbled noticeably down the stretch en route to a two-length victory, his seventh in a row. John Velazquez was aboard Wise Dan, the 1-5 favorite in a field of five.
“It was nerve-racking with the weight spread and the way the weather played out, but we got through it,” said LoPresti, who trains the 6-year-old Wise Dan for owner and breeder Morton Fink. LoPresti even admitted that he came very close to having the gelding scratched.
“I’m glad he got to run,” he said. “The fans really cheered him on when he came back. He showed he’s truly a great horse. I just hope they don’t put too much weight on him down the road.”
LoPresti said Wise Dan, the 2012 Horse of the Year, will head to Saratoga in about two weeks. Although either or both of the main turf fixtures, the Aug. 10 Fourstardave and the Aug. 31 Bernard Baruch, are more likely, LoPresti would not rule out either of the two top dirt races for older horses, the Aug. 3 Whitney and the Aug. 31 Woodward.
“I’d really like to keep him undefeated, and I’d like to win a Grade 1 with him on the dirt this year,” he said. “I think if we could win a Grade 1 with him on the dirt and keep him undefeated, that he doesn’t necessarily need to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I think if we get a Grade 1 on the dirt with him and then keep him going and get a few wins on the turf and then get to the Breeders’ Cup, that maybe he’ll get Horse of the Year again.”
Meanwhile, the easy 2 3/4-length victory by Debt Ceiling earlier Saturday evening in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes made him a major contender for the upcoming stakes at Saratoga.
Debt Ceiling, owned by Tim O’Donohue, was eased up by jockey Eric Camacho in the final half-furlong, perhaps accounting for the relatively low Beyer Speed Figure of 76. The track was a sea of slop by the time the six-furlong race was run, with the field strung out by 23 lengths from first to last.
Debt Ceiling, by Discreet Cat, is unbeaten in three starts. He is trained by Jerry Robb, the Maryland veteran perhaps best known for his work with the legendary campaigner Little Bold John in the 1980s. Robb, 61, has been training for 40 years.
“We haven’t had anybody call to try to buy him, which kind of surprises me, but maybe we will now,” Robb said while exiting the winner’s circle. “His numbers in his first two races were slow, but that doesn’t bother me. We know how good this colt is.”