Photo: Terri Cage
Wise Dan stood in his stall serenely, one leg cocked as he
struggled to keep his eyes open. The window at the back of his stall cast a
beam of sunlight over his back, offering him warmth in the brisk air of the
morning. Those outside his stall spoke of him in admiration and respect, but he
paid no attention to these mere humans. They could look at him in awe all they
wanted; he was used to it.
“You can’t bother him,” trainer Charlie LoPresti commented. “He’s about as
laid-back as can be.”
An hour later, a crowd of photographers and reporters stood outside the barn in
which he was stabled. Suddenly, the 2012 Horse of the Year emerged, the
sunlight glinting off his copper coat. After walking a few ovals around a dirt
path outside the barn, LoPresti gave a leg up to Damien Rock, the regular
exercise rider of the 6-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry.
An entourage of press followed behind Wise Dan as the horse made his way from
Barn 36 to the track, where a large crowd gathered along the rail from the gap
to the finish line to catch a glimpse of the reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr.
I) victor. LoPresti kept a watchful eye on his charge as he and Wise Dan parted
ways, the chestnut traveling onto the track as LoPresti sought a spot in the
Moving alongside a pony horse before the expansive grandstand of Santa Anita
Park, Wise Dan entered the turf course near the finish line, where he stood for
several minutes as a large group of photographers pointed their cameras in his
“He likes to stand,” LoPresti stated as he gazed at his trainee from the grandstand.
“We don’t rush him.”
But with a chuckle, he added, “They sure are taking their sweet time, aren’t
Before long, Wise Dan broke into a gallop, traveling far off the inside rail as
he took to the track with his powerful strides. Remaining relaxed, the chestnut
made a lap around the turf course, doing so in the manner of a two-minute lick.
It was clear as he passed the grandstand that he required a good amount of
restraint from Rock, galloping easily over the grass. Finishing up his lap,
Wise Dan galloped right past the outriders waiting for him, making it to the
backstretch before Rock eased him into a slower gait.
“He didn’t want to pull up!” Rock said with a smile as he rode Wise Dan back to
LoPresti was rather pleased with Wise Dan’s morning outing at Santa Anita,
which was his first of 2013 since he arrived at the Arcadia, California racetrack
on the evening of Tuesday, October 29.
“I think he did pretty well,” the trainer stated. “I was really happy with it.”
Wise Dan cooled out outside the barn beneath the California sunshine to the
clicking of cameras, stopping frequently to pose. A horse with a commanding
presence, Wise Dan exuded confidence, walking along with easy strides as if he
was on a walk in the park. That afternoon, he joined a contingent of other
Breeders’ Cup horses as he schooled in the paddock for the first race of Santa
Anita’s Thursday card, appearing composed and content in the paddock. But as he
left the ring to head back the barn, he tossed his head and pranced before
onlookers, displaying the spirit of a champion primed for victory.
Wise Dan rests in his stall before hitting the track
Photo by Terri Cage