Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
It may have been on the undercard, but the Wise Dan – Point of Entry showdown was one of the more anticipated races of this spring. Nothing could overshadow the Kentucky Derby, but this year’s Woodford Reserve Turf Classic was sure going to try. Unfortunately, a steady day-long rain transformed a firm turf into a grass course with too much cut for trainer, Shug McGaughey, who decided to scratch Point of Entry in the middle of the afternoon. With Point of Entry away, Wise Dan was free to play.
Sitting chilly under Jose Lezcano, Wise Dan tracked leaders Silver Max and Optimizer through solid early fractions of :23.93 for the quarter, and :48.51. Waiting for the perfect time to pounce, the pair made their move on the far turn, and by the time the field of seven straightened out, the 3-5 favorite was poised to strike the lead. From there, it was just a matter of the six-year-old chestnut gelding exerting his superiority over his outclassed competition. Wise Dan ended the suspense by the eighth pole and cruised home an authoritative 4 3/4 length winner.
The reigning Horse of the Year, is now 7-for-8 lifetime on the grass, and has not lost on the green stuff for more than a year and a half. As a matter of fact, his only defeat in that time period was a tough trip loss by a head to Ron the Greek in the Stephen Foster, right here at Churchill Downs, last June. In his last six races on turf, Wise Dan has won each time without any serious challenge, with the last five victories being of the grade 1 variety. He set out a clear signal that he has not lost a step off his championship form with a sharp start to his season with impressive wins in the Maker’s 46 Mile on April 12 at Keeneland, and now today’s grade 1 affair.
At nine furlongs, and with both horses very much in their prime, A Wise Dan vs. Point of Entry meeting in the Woodford Reserve could have been the best showdown on American turf in a long time. For Point of Entry, we’ll never know how he would have done against the champ, Wise Dan. What we did learn today is Wise Dan remains almost unbeatable in every race his connections choose to run, and if both of these excellent horses go on to win Breeders’ Cup races in the fall, I have to wonder if Wise Dan doesn’t get points for holding up his end of the bargain on Kentucky Derby Day.