Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, a winner of five straight Grade I races, will carry the high weight of 128 pounds when he faces seven rivals in the 23rd
running of $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
The Firecracker Handicap for
3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course is one of
three stakes events on the “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” nighttime racing
program. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the Firecracker will go as Race 9 of 11 at 10:11 p.m.
Mort Fink’s homebred
Wise Dan enters the Firecracker off a 4 ¾-length victory in the Woodford
Reserve Turf Classic (GI) on Kentucky Derby Day. In his only other
start of 2013, he won the Maker’s 46 Mile (GI)
on the turf at Keeneland by a length. He was ridden in both of those
starts by Jose Lezcano, but Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the call Saturday.
“He’s doing as well as I could ask,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said.
Wise Dan won the
Firecracker in 2011 in his turf debut and has since won six of his seven
turf starts, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI). No horse
has won the Firecracker twice.
Kitten’s Joy holds the record for most weight carried by a winner of the Firecracker.
He carried 124 pounds when he won the race by a length in 2005. Five years ago, Curlin won the 2008 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs while toting
The main rival for Wise Dan could be Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Lea, who is weighted at 117 pounds. A 4-year-old chestnut son of First Samurai, Lea ended his 2012 campaign with a victory
in the Commonwealth Turf (GIII) at Churchill Downs in November.
In his lone start of the
year, Lea cruised to a 3 ¼-length win in an off-the-turf
allowance/optional-claiming race on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs on
June 1 in his dirt debut. Trained by Al Stall Jr., Lea
has a record of four wins, one second and one third from six starts.
Also weighted at 117 pounds as the co-second high weight is Gary and Mary West’s Corporate Jungle, who most recently finished second in the Swoon’s Son at Arlington Park in his first start for trainer
Tom Proctor. While in the barn of trainer Chad Brown,
Corporate Jungle won the 2012 Appleton (GIII) at Gulfstream Park and
finished second behind Wise Dan in the 2012 Fourstardave Handicap (GII)
The other graded-stakes winner in the field is Bob and Cathy Zollars
’ Daddy Nose Best
, who won the El Camino Real Derby (GIII) and Sunland Derby (GIII) in 2012 for trainer Steve Asmussen
He was most recently second behind Silver Max
in the Opening Verse at Churchill Downs on June 1.
The field for the
Firecracker Handicap from the rail out (with jockey and weight):
Corporate Jungle (Alan Garcia, 117), Wise Dan (Velazquez, 128), Dimension-GB
(Victor Lebron, 113), Lea (Brian Hernandez
Jr., 117), Finnegans Wake
(Jesus Castanon, 116), Daddy Nose Best (Rosie Napravnik, 116), Seruni
(Corey Lanerie, 115) and Ol Army
(Jon Court, 114).