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Wise Dan Returns to Action in Baruch

Seventeen weeks since his last race, and 106 days removed from emergency colic surgery, two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan is set to make his return in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.

 

The 7-year-old Morton Fink champion homebred is the 127-pound highweight in the 56th renewal of the 1 1/16-mile Baruch, for 3-year-olds and up on the inner turf course. It is one of four graded stakes on the program, along with the Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward, Grade 1, $500,000 Forego, and Grade 2, $300,000 Prioress.

 

Trained by Charles LoPresti, Wise Dan has won each of his two starts this year - the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile on April 11 and Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on May 3 - but has spent the past four months recuperating from surgery performed on May 16 after developing colic following a routine gallop.

 

Wise Dan has had seven works since the operation, the last six at Saratoga, where he won the Grade 2 Fourstardave in 2012 and 2013 en route to multiple championship honors. Not wanting to rush the Wiseman's Ferry gelding to make the August 9 race, LoPresti instead began eyeing the Baruch, a race he won in 2011 with Turallure.

 

Also nominated to the Woodward, Wise Dan breezed twice on the Saratoga turf before having four works over the main track, most recently going a half-mile in 47.92 seconds, seventh-fastest of 101 horses on Sunday.

 

"He's gotten back to where he was; he's dragging his rider around there," LoPresti said. "His works have been really good, and they've been basically not even asking him to do that. He's just been doing it in hand.

 

"I think he's back to himself again," he added. "It took him a while to get back. We were probably two works short of the Fourstardave. Once we got him up here, I realized I was trying to play catch-up to make that race and this makes more sense. I can't say that any race at Saratoga is easy, but this is an easier spot, I think, for him to come back in."

 

Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez will be back aboard Wise Dan, who drew post 5 and has a record of 21 wins and two seconds from 29 lifetime starts and earnings of $6,802,920. Seventeen of his wins have come in graded stakes, including 10 Grade 1 races.

 

"I want to get him started. I'm not going to jump off the roof if he gets beat half a length or a length, something like that," LoPresti said. "He's been beaten before, so that doesn't worry me. He got beat in the [Grade 1] Shadwell Mile [in October 2013] and everybody started writing him off, but he got beat by a horse that got on the front end and just stole the race.

 

"It could happen again [Saturday], but Johnny's smart enough," he added. "He's not going to abuse him and chase some horse around there just to get a win in him. If he's lucky enough to win, fine, but if it sets him up for the Shadwell and the Breeders' Cup, I'm OK with that, too."

 

Aside from the layoff, Wise Dan will give up between eight and 13 pounds to his rivals in the Baruch. He carried 129 pounds in his 1 ¼-length victory over King Kreesa in last year's Fourstardave.

 

"We got a lot of weight," LoPresti said. "It's not as bad as last year, but we still got the weight that we're dealing with, too. I think he's really good. He's doing good right now. I got him as fit as I can get him and I'm happy with him."

 

The other Grade 1 winner in the Baruch field is Boisterous, a 7-year-old son of Distorted Humor making his sixth start since being transferred to trainer Todd Pletcher for the 2014 campaign.

 

Boisterous won the Grade 1 Man o' War last summer at Belmont Park for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and owns one victory in four career tries on the Saratoga turf, his maiden triumph in August 2010. Most recently, he finished fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths, in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on July 12 at Belmont, going 1 ½ miles.

 

Closing in on 1,000 career stakes victories, Pletcher captured the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Cliff Hanger on August 24 at Monmouth Park with Winning Cause, who the trainer cut back in distance after running fourth in the 1 5/8-mile John's Call at Saratoga. Pletcher won the 2012 Baruch with Dominus.

 

"Sometimes you get an improved effort when you're going from longer to shorter [distances]. We saw that with Winning Cause," Pletcher said. "Boisterous shows up and tries hard every time. He's been training steadily since his last race and he's doing well. On certain days, he's shown that he can compete at the highest level."

 

Half of a Gary Barber-owned entry with Bio Pro, Boisterous will carry jockey Javier Castellano and 119 pounds from post 4.

 

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin won three straight editions of the Baruch with Shakis (2007-08) and Justenuffhumor (2009), and he goes for a fourth with Sayaad. The 4-year-old Street Sense colt had his three-race win streak snapped when fifth to Seek Again in the Fourstardave, after dueling with Grade 1-winning pacesetter Silver Max. It was a loose-on-the-lead Silver Max that ended Wise Dan's nine-race streak in the 2013 Shadwell Mile.

 

"We could be on an uncontested lead, but Wise Dan is keen and off a long layoff; he could be breathing down our throats or he could be on the lead," McLaughlin said. "I'm hoping we can be on the lead, but if there's other speed we can lay second. He did rate [in the Fourstardave], we just need to time it right."

 

Jose Ortiz will ride Sayaad, assigned 117 pounds, from post 10.

 

Sky Blazer will be making his 29th career start and 10th in a graded stakes in the Baruch, a race in which he finished third in 2012. He is 1-for-6 this year, winning an optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park in March and finishing third by less than a length in the Bowling Green.

 

"I've run him long, I've run him short, and he's run decently both ways," trainer Barclay Tagg said. "I can't get something that really fits him well, so we might as well take a shot. Big things happen sometimes if you're in there. You never know what's going to happen."

 

Sky Blazer will break from outside post 11 under Rajiv Maragh at 116 pounds.

 

Rounding out the field are multiple Grade 3 winners Five Iron, who took the 2013 Saranac at Saratoga for trainer Brian Lynch, and Optimizer, a veteran of all three legs of the 2012 Triple Crown for previous trainer D. Wayne Lukas; North Star Boy, a Spa allowance winner on July 19; and Bio Pro and Paris Vegas, second and sixth, respectively, in the Lure on August 2 at Saratoga.

 

Lea and Red Rifle are entered for main track only.

 

Source: NYRA

 

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