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Past the Grandstand

The Respect Wise Dan Deserves


Wise Dan never ran in a Triple Crown race. He has never raced in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). He has not competed on dirt since June 2012. He has never raced at a distance longer than a mile and one-eighth. Wise Dan is certainly not the traditional "ideal" American racehorse, but despite this, he is the reigning two-time Horse of the Year.

Absent since his second consecutive win in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) at Santa Anita in November, Wise Dan made his long-awaited return to the races in the Maker's 46 Mile Stakes (gr. I) yesterday at Keeneland, aiming to defend his title in the race, which marked his post-Breeders' Cup return last year as well. The competition against which Wise Dan has competed is often criticized, but on Friday afternoon in Lexington, Kentucky, the six-time Eclipse Award winner encountered the likes of the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. I) winner Lochte, the multiple graded stakes-winning Za Approval (who was second to Wise Dan in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Mile), and the graded stakes-placed runners Gentleman's Kitten and Kaigun.

Sent off as the heavy favorite in the field of six, Wise Dan broke sharply before tucking in behind the leaders. Rounding the first turn, Wise Dan was clearly rank and eager to run beneath jockey John Velazquez, tugging on the rider’s reins as the horses entered the backstretch. Velazquez expertly held the chestnut back, rating Wise Dan in fourth as the leaders set steady fractions.

As the field galloped into the far turn, Wise Dan could wait no more and surged forward on the outside to become even with Lochte nearing the quarter pole. Entering the homestretch, Wise Dan kicked clear under urging from Velazquez and held clear as longshot Kaigun rallied on his outside. The champion crossed the wire ¾ of a length in front, completing the mile in 1:34.91, a time 1.46 seconds faster than his clocking in last year’s running of the race.

With his win, Wise Dan became the first horse since Kip Deville to win back to back runnings of the Maker’s 46 Mile. Perhaps the most notable aspect of his victory was that trainer Charlie LoPresti did not feel Wise Dan was 100% for his 2014 debut, believing the gelding was only 80% and needed an additional five-furlong work to prepare for the race. LoPresti’s concerns aside, many racing enthusiasts and analysts suspected the gelding could not possibly be the same at age seven. But if Wise Dan proved anything yesterday, it was that he certainly has not lost a step. He is the Wise Dan we have come to know and love: a win machine.

Wise Dan is the first reigning Horse of the Year to return as a seven-year-old since the great John Henry. The gelding’s connections have been widely disapproved for how they have campaigned him, but their management of the chestnut locomotive has led him to continue racing for more than four years now, winning a remarkable 20 races from 28 lifetime starts. Wise Dan has lost only twice since late October 2011 (both of those defeats resulted in game runner-up efforts) and has lost just once going a mile on the turf in his entire career.

LoPresti and breeder/owner Morton Fink have indicated that Wise Dan may take on new adventures this year, perhaps even a campaign that includes dirt races. After all, Wise Dan is a grade one winner on dirt, having won the 2011 Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. Should Wise Dan take such a route, it will certainly satisfy an abundance of racing’s followers. However, regardless of what 2014 holds in store for Wise Dan, he is a horse that deserves the utmost respect and recognition. He is the superstar of our sport – a constant that is all but guaranteed to provide fans with a superb performance in every race in which he competes. We must enjoy him while we can.


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Older Comments about The Respect Wise Dan Deserves...

Dan and his connections are everything right about horseracing, I look forward so much to his races.
Wise Dan ran better seasons in the past two years than any other horse. That's all there is to it.
Sorry, Dan wouldn't be getting hand rides against the horses Lure faced.
I think so too. Dan probably wouldn't be getting hand rides against
I think that the competiton in Lure's day was tougher.
I saw Lure and Dan both and I'd say Dan's better. Though Lure's prett close.
EP Taylor what would solve the problem would be for an older dirt male or 3 year old male to have a year worthy of the Horse of Year award. This is not happening today for some reason. Was Rachel better than Ruffian? Ruffian was not HoY, Zenyatta was probably the best mare since Personal Ensign but Personal Ensign was not HoY. Wise Dan is the best turf miler since Lure, but Lure was not HoY. The reason they all lost was because a classic distance older male had a better record. This is what is missing in racing today. Older males who can put a record together that deserves Horse of The Year.
A category for Older "DIRT" Male is in order. Solves everything.
Last year was the fifth year in row when Horse of the Year was not an older male or classic 3 year old. This has never happened in history. Wise Dan deserved his Horse of the Year awards, the problem I have is the lack of deserving winners among the horses who run in our most important and historic races, the older male handicap races and the 3year old classic division races.
How can you knock a horse who runs almost exclusively in Grade 1 races and doesn't duck the Breeders Cup?? Other than swapping out the G2 Fourstardave with another Grade 1 during the summer, I wouldn't change his schedule leading up to his Breeders Cup defense.
I applaud LoPresti and Fink for the way they have handled Wise Dan's career. I think they have done a great job and Wise Dan is a STAR for sure. He has proven time and again that he has earned the respect and the title of Horse of the Year. Kudos to his connections and may he have a STELLAR 2014. Wise Dan is not only WISE but he is AWESOME!!
Ex he is incredibly fast and a tremendous Miler on the Turf. But the one thing tha can be said about him. He has not earned the 2 Awards he has received in the successive years. Why should one race against so-so horse put him over the top this year. Not saying he has not run against the best Turf Milers in the past 2 years. He has,it is not his fault that the competition has been less than stellar. He beat who he had to. IMO not worthy of the honors bestowed to him.
  • Mike Relva · Tom,Wise Dan deserves the awards he's received. Can you say with a straight face the horses he faced yesterday,(all younger) wasn't stellar? Feel glad we have a horse at seven still in training we can have a conversation about. · 1111 days ago
100 BSF for Wise Dan in the Maker's Mark Mile
If a horse can totally dominate his division the way no other horse can, he wins by default. Until I see Game On Dude or Will Take Charge wins a grade 1 going a mile on turf I will not penalize Dan for staying in his preferred division.
I'm not saying he deserves it. He's just the best around right now. Though if he can come back to run like he did in the Woodbine Mile, he'll have earned it.
They already gave him 2 cup cake awards in successive years. Thing to be said with out of touch/out of mind voters opining with their hearts. Exterminator,if you are looking for this guy to score the "HAT TRICK" you must be expecting the icing this time around.
Unless Chrome or another 3yo does what no colt has done since Affirmed, Dan is your 3 time HOTY.

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About Mary Cage


Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association.

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. 

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan as she writes about assorted horse racing topics.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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