Though he has been with Wise Dan
throughout a 30-race campaign that began in the winter of 2010, trainer
Charlie LoPresti continues to be awed by his two-time Horse of the
wasn't any different on Sunday, the morning after the 7-year-old Morton
Fink homebred made a successful and thrilling return to racing by
winning the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap in a photo finish.
was the third win in as many starts this year for Wise Dan, but first
since having emergency colic surgery on May 16 that briefly threatened
his eventual Hall of Fame career.
you believe it? It's incredible," LoPresti said. "He's an amazing
creature, I'll tell ya. He seems fine. He ate everything up. We got him
out and walked him and his legs looked great. I mean, he's a little
tired but that's to be expected. He had to really show his heart and
class, and that's what makes him the horse that he is."
he entertained several options as he brought Wise Dan back to the
races, including the Grade 2 Fourstardave on August 9 at Saratoga,
LoPresti ultimately settled on the 1 1/16-mile Bernard Baruch though it
meant having to give weight to his opponents.
Dan carried 127 pounds, from eight to 13 more than the rest of the
field. Late-running long shot Optimizer, with 11 fewer pounds, came
flying late on the outside but came up a nose short to the six-time
Eclipse Award winner.
ran a great race," LoPresti said. "He's not going to have to [give
weight] anymore. Now he's got a race in him, and God willing he's OK. I
was relieved. It's been tough coming up here with him, just trying to do
the right thing and hoping he didn't get sick again. We had to breeze
him a bunch to get him ready. It's been tough in trying to make the
right decision, but I'm glad we ran here."
Dan boosted his bankroll to just under $7 million and improved to 3-0
lifetime at Saratoga, including Fourstardave victories in 2012 and 2013.
His final time of 1:39.08 was just .17 off the Mellon turf course
record set by Fourstardave in 1991, when the legendary New York-bred
carried 115 pounds.
was here, we prepped him here, and all he had to do was walk across the
street," LoPresti said. "I knew the people here at Saratoga wanted to
see him run. The fans wanted to see him run. It was the right thing to
[retiring track announcer] Tom Durkin said, 'Here comes the future Hall
of Famer,' it was great. I'm glad we ran him here. I love coming here. I
like Saratoga. This is probably the best racing there is, the Saratoga
meet. It's so tough to win a race here. This makes the fifth year we've
come here and won a graded stake."
Dan will leave Saratoga on Tuesday for Kentucky and point for the Grade
1, $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile on October 4 at Keeneland and then the
October 31-November 1 Breeders' Cup, where he is the two-time defending
is a similar campaign that led to Wise Dan being voted Champion Older
Male, Champion Turf Male and Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013. There
hasn't been a three-time successive Horse of the Year winner since
Forego from 1974-76.
not trying to lobby for Horse of the Year. I said something yesterday
[on NBC] and then after I said it, I wished I hadn't," LoPresti said.
"But if you think about what this horse has been through, why wouldn't
he be Horse of the Year? He's undefeated. One thing I don't ever want to
get into is any kind of match race or anything like that. I'm going to
stick to the plan. He'll have two more races. If we're lucky enough to
win those and everything goes good, whatever they decide I'm fine with
it. He doesn't have to get Horse of the Year. He's my horse of the year
if he never wins another race."