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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

2013 Breeders' Cup Highlights: Wise Dan

Wise Dan Terri (2) 615 X 400
Photo: Terri Cage


I can close my eyes and see the San Gabriel Mountains. With them as a backdrop, I can place several memories from my time spent at the Breeders’ Cup in front of them: Wise Dan grazing, the sky lightening as horses exercised on the track in the morning, horses racing down the backstretch, and winners and losers galloping past the stands as they receive applause from the crowd no matter where they finished.

The 2013 Breeders’ Cup was one of the greatest experiences of my life 
perhaps even the most amazing to date. I have now been to four Breeders’ Cups and the moments from this year’s championships that are now fond memories place this Breeders’ Cup as the most wondrous experience I have ever had at the racetrack. I have since returned home and must focus my attention on homework rather than a track program and top-class Thoroughbreds, but my mind tends to wander to the many great personal moments that occurred at the Breeders’ Cup.

There are too many amazing moments from my 2013 Breeders’ Cup experience to describe in one post, so please enjoy my series highlighting these moments, one by one, over the next several days.

Highlight One: Wise Dan

Although my experience at the 2013 Breeders’ Cup is abounding with highlights, my time spent with Wise Dan is by far and away the greatest of them all. Before launching into the story of my Wise Dan adventures, I would like to extend my gratitude to Bill Casner and Charlie LoPresti, who made my time with Wise Dan possible.

After being introduced to Charlie LoPresti, I followed him into an old barn situated on the backside of Santa Anita Park, where he led me – and a handful of other people – to a stall. Looking in, I caught my breath at the sight of the copper-colored horse standing in the box. The Thoroughbred was relaxed, resting a hind leg and allowing his ears to flop laterally as he struggled to keep his eyes open. The window at the back of his stall cast a beam of sunlight over his back, offering him warmth in the brisk air of the morning. Those outside his stall spoke of him in admiration and respect, but he paid no attention to these mere humans. They could look at him in awe all they wanted; he was used to it.

I stepped closer to the stall guard that separated me from the 2012 Horse of the Year, attempting to convince myself that I was not dreaming. Suddenly, Wise Dan lifted his head, his liquid brown eyes meeting mine as he pricked his ears. I blinked, star struck by the champion. As I stood admiring the famous Thoroughbred, I listened in fascination to the stories about Wise Dan LoPresti had to share – stories that made my love and respect for Wise Dan somehow become even greater.











Mary Cage with a resting Wise Dan
Photo by Terri Cage 

An hour later, I returned to the barn minutes before the 6-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry emerged from the darkness of the barn into the warm morning sunlight. As I focused my eyes upon the three-time Eclipse Award winner, I watched as Wise Dan was led around the small dirt oval between barns before LoPresti gave regular exercise rider, Damien Rock, a leg up onto the defending Breeders’ Cup Mile victor.

Joining in the entourage that followed Wise Dan to the track, I joined Charlie LoPresti in the grandstand as Wise Dan completed his gallop around Santa Anita’s turf course, my eyes centered on the champion during his expedition around the oval. A return to the barn gave me several minutes to soak in the sight of Wise Dan before me, watching him cool out beneath the California sunshine to the clicking of cameras, stopping frequently to pose. A horse with a commanding presence, Wise Dan exuded confidence, walking along with easy strides as if he was on a walk in the park.













Wise Dan
Photo by Terri Cage

That afternoon, I watched as Wise Dan schooled in the paddock and the next morning, I focused my eyes upon the reigning Horse of the Year as he jogged over the dirt track in the dark one day before his defense of his Breeders’ Cup Mile title. An invite from Charlie LoPresti to come by the barn again allowed me to get up-close and personal with Wise Dan yet again, watching him cool out before the San Gabriel Mountains as the sky grew lighter.

My time spent with Wise Dan at the 2013 Breeders’ Cup came to a perfect ending. After locking my eyes upon him in the saddling paddock before the Breeders’ Cup Mile, I returned to my perch near the track, where I again focused my vision and camera on the chestnut gelding the second he stepped onto the track. My nerves were rising at a rapid pace and by the time he loaded into the gate, I could hardly breathe.

My eyes did not leave Wise Dan throughout the running of the race; I was entirely focused on the defending champion. The excitement grew when the horses reached the homestretch and I abandoned my camera as Wise Dan emerged on the outside, rallying as he strove to attain the lead.

“Come on, Dan!” I cheered, a wide smile stretching across my face and tears of joy beginning to spring from my eyes as the chestnut raced to the front, crossing the wire in triumph.

I ran to the winner’s circle, never losing my grin as I dashed through the crowd to reach the winner’s enclosure. Already elated about Wise Dan’s victory, the infectious joy emanating from the winner’s circle added to my happiness. An abundance of people lined up before the Breeders’ Cup backdrop as Wise Dan joined us, a coveted garland of purple and yellow flowers draped over his withers.

I do not own Wise Dan. I did not train or breed him. But in that moment, I felt as if I was part of his team. There I stood, in the winner’s circle with the Horse of the Year after a Breeders’ Cup race – a moment that I had previously thought would only happen in my dreams. However, the immense joy I felt was only partially for this dream come true. The rest was for the connections of Wise Dan – for his passionate owner Morton Fink, for his talented and fortunate rider Jose Lezcano, for his dedicated exercise rider Damien Rock, for his hard-working groom Reeve McGaughey, and, most of all, for his incredibly kind and hospitable trainer Charlie LoPresti.



















The connections of Wise Dan celebrate his victory
Photo by Mary Cage 


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Older Comments about 2013 Breeders' Cup Highlights: Wise Dan...

That feeling, of being part of it, is really great!
He's a nice horse.
fantastic! !!!

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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and has interned at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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