Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Wise Dan is the reigning Horse of the Year. He is 6-for-7 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 last June. In his last five races on turf, Wise Dan has won each time without any serious challenge, with the last four 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 return victory in the Maker’s 46 Mile on April 12 at Keeneland.
Point of Entry also has four recent grade 1 victories on the turf to his credit, and similar to Wise Dan, no horse has been closer than a length to the impressive son of Dynaformer at the finish in any of those victories. He has won six of his last seven races, with his only loss coming after a less than ideal trip and narrow second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Like Wise Dan, he has run only one time in 2013, and the result was excellent. Defeating Animal Kingdom in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, Point of Entry ran what I consider to be among the most impressive performances turned in by any racehorse so far this year.
Frankly, I didn’t think this perfect storm of a race had any chance of happening after Wise Dan’s trainer, Charles LoPresti said the Stephen Foster on June 15 would be his next race following his win at Keeneland. But then a few things happened, that may well alter that original plan, and send the two top horses on HRN's Fan Rankings headlong towards each other.
Most importantly, Wise Dan’s older brother, Successful Dan, came back with a solid win in the Ben Ali Stakes after a long layoff. This is so vital to the potential showdown because with Successful Dan back on the scene as one of the better older male dirt horses in the nation, a race like the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, at his home track, would make perfect sense for Successful Dan. LoPresti and owner, Morton Fink, have no want to run the Brothers Dan against one another.
Secondly, Wise Dan came out of his return race in perfect shape. This means coming back in 22 days for a huge test would likely not be too much, too soon for the Horse of the Year.
In Marty McGee’s article on the two Dans, yesterday on DRF, LoPresti had this to say about the recent developments and what it could mean for the Woodford Reserve.
“Wise Dan came out of the Maker’s so good that the Woodford is more possible than I initially thought. But there’s still a ways to go on that. If we did go that way, then that’d leave the Foster to Successful Dan.”
So he’s saying there’s a chance. That’s all I needed to start getting excited about what could go down on Kentucky Derby Day.
As far as handicapping who would win the race if such an epic showdown were to take place on May 4, I really would have no favorite. At a flat mile, I would certainly side with Wise Dan, the horse I believe who now holds the throne as the world’s best miler. At a 1 ¼ mile distance, though, I believe the stretch running power of Point of Entry would eventually wear down last year’s champion. But the Woodford Reserve is right in between the two.
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 be the best showdown on American turf since … since … I don’t know when.