Horse of the Year Wise Dan, once again, showed what it means to be a winner, by fighting to the
wire in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) in the race before the Kentucky
Today Wise Dan had to break from post position one and
jockey John Velazquez quickly found himself in tight quarters between Bright Thought and Skyring, who both wanted to get to the front. Wise Dan began to
compete and run hard with those speed horses. At that point Velazquez had to
fight hard to get Wise Dan out of that developing speed duel. Wise Dan threw
his head from side to side until Velazquez finally got him to settle a few
lengths behind the other two horses.
After the first half-mile went in :48.05, Velazquez moved
Wise Dan to the three-path in preparation for his usual closing move. Three
quarters went in 1:12.28 and Wise Dan began to inch up outside of the leaders
who were starting to fade a bit.
Velazquez had the two front-runners measured and he took a
look back to see if any other closers were making a move on the outside. As
Wise Dan was taking the lead the challenge was actually coming on the inside as
Seek Again was making a strong move
along the hedge. Wise Dan and Johnny V.
didn’t see that competition at first because the fading pace setters were
blocking the view.
Once Wise Dan saw the Seek Again he dug in as only Wise Dan
can do and battled him to the wire. Their heads were bobbing in the final 100
yards, but the champion prevailed at the wire by a head as they covered the
mile and an eighth in 1:47.73. Wise Dan paid $3.00 to win.
The four-year-old Seek Again came into the Turf Classic with
only one start in the United States on Dec. 1, 2013 when he won the Hollywood
Derby (G1) for trainer John Gosden. Seek Again had come to the US after racing
in Great Britain seven times. He was sent east and entered the barn of Bill
Mott, who masterfully prepared his horse on workouts only.
Wise Dan entered
the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic as the race’s defending champion with a
perfect three for three record on the Churchill Downs grass course. His only
other start at the nine furlong distance on the turf came when he won this race
Wise Dan has had only
one loss in 14 tries on the turf. That defeat came on Oct. 8, 2011, in the
Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, when as a four-year-old, he finished fourth behind
Gio Ponti, Get Stormy, and Sidney’s Candy.
After today’s repeat win in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic,
is it time to start thinking about Wise Dan in the company of the greatest
American turf runners in history?