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Breeders' Cup 2017

Point/Counterpoint: Wise Dan vs Excelebration

Wise Dan vs Excelebration in the BC Mile
The Breeders' Cup Mile is shaping up to be a showdown between America's most versatile miler, Wise Dan, and Europe's Excelebration, the horse only Frankel could top. Which one will taste victory at Santa Anita? Zipse at the Track's Brian Zipse and Handicappers' Corner's Jasen Mangrum discuss their choices in this week's Point-Counterpoint!


Wise DanWise Dan
Chicago Dark Horse
Chicago Dark Horse
Jasen Magrum:
Anything can happen on any given day is an old axiom used in sports that usually rings true. There are two other good rules of thumb I like to follow in sports: Europeans are better golfers than Americans and European horses are better than Americans in turf races. My Chicago-based opponent witnessed the former during the Ryder Cup in September at Medinah Country Club, and he will have a front row seat to the latter when Excelebration defeats Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile next Saturday at Santa Anita.
Other than his career debut, Excelebration has won every start that did not involve Frankel. In his 5 starts against the proclaimed “greatest horse of all time,” Excelebration had 4 respectable runner-ups and a third. Overall, Excelebration has run in 7 Group 1’s at a mile with a record of 3-3-1. Though Frankel had his number, Excelebration has put daylight between himself and all other comers in all of his 2012 efforts. With this consistency alone, Excelebration is easily Europe’s best miler not named Frankel.
In Excelebration’s 3 Group 1 victories (all at 1 mile on grass), he proved he can handle any kind of ground. He zipped a mile in 1:34.60 two back when winning the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. In that victory, he soundly defeated Europe’s 2nd best chance in the BC Mile, Moonlight Cloud. 

Last weekend, he sloshed to a victory on soft ground at Ascot in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. In that race Excelebration was bottled up, crying out for room and when found he found daylight, he exploded with nothing more than a shake of the reigns, while running a sub-24 second final quarter over the boggy going.

There is no debating Wise Dan’s talent, but he has only 5 grass tries. In his 2 Grade 1 wins, the horses who hit the board are considered also-rans in next week’s big race (if they even make it at all). Wise Dan doesn’t have the record, experience or success of his arch rival. The only thing he has on his side is that the Breeders’ Cup is on his side of the pond. But don’t forget, eastern-based horses have historically fared poorly when racing’s biggest day takes place in the Golden State. In fact, Santa Anita has hosted the Breeders’ Cup 5 times with 4 Europeans taking home top prize in the Mile. I think it is safe to say there is more than enough evidence to prove Excelebration will help run their record to 5 for 6.

Brian Zipse:
Hey, now wait a minute! Americans have won more majors than Europeans in 34 of the last 40 years, including 2012, but … enough about golf. This debate is about the horses, and while it is true that the majority of America’s best horses run on dirt, we still put together a pretty solid turf group, especially at a mile. Keep in mind, that in the last eight runnings of the Mile, five Americans have won the race, while only one European has claimed the trophy. Sure, Goldikova did it three times, but Excelebration is no Goldikova … I repeat, Excelebration is no Goldikova.

Yes, I agree, Excelebration was no match for Frankel. That was proven five times over. I do believe, however, that Wise Dan has had a better career, and is coming in with better form, than any of the five Americans (Court Vision, Kip Deville, Miesque’s Approval, Artie Schiller, and Singletary) who have won the Mile in recent years. I really cannot understand why the Lord of Versatility continues to be doubted, but I consider him the best horse in North America with no exception.

Any type of ground in Europe maybe, but the very firm turf of Santa Anita, in the heat, and after a very long trip, might be another story. Goldikova adapted well to American racing, but the list of Euros who don’t, especially when all aspects of the Breeders’ Cup come into play, is a long one.

Meanwhile, Wise Dan is truly a horse who can run on anything. Starting the year on synthetics, moving to dirt, before finally switching to grass, he is an unlucky loss away from sweeping the table in a series of graded stakes while traveling from track to track. I say bring on the firm California turf, because chances are great that Wise Dan will love it, just like everything else.

History has taught us that it’s a real crapshoot whether or not Excelebration will show us his best stuff next week at Santa Anita, but I really hope he does. That will be the only way he can truly challenge the juggernaut that Wise Dan has become. Anyone that has seen Wise Dan run all year long, let alone his last three races on turf, knows that he is a serious racehorse at his peak. As for as whom he’s beaten, I’m surprised that you would bring this up considering he absolutely had Cityscape for lunch two starts back. That’s the same Cityscape who was Excelebration’s top rival in his two big wins this year. In short, Wise Dan passes my eyeball test with flying colors. His wins in New York, Toronto, and Kentucky were utterly dominant. Americans need not worry this time … Wise Dan is the real deal.

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Older Comments about Point/Counterpoint: Wise Dan vs Excelebration...

I really thought Moonlight Cloud had Black Caviar beat at Ascot.
Footy. I agree I really do like Moonlight Cloud
As much as I am a huge fan of Excelebration, Wise Dan and Moonlight Cloud, I'd like to see how they ship and take to the track and conditions. One cannot dismiss Obviously here.
Take Frankel entirely out of Excelebration's career equation and the European racing press would by now have hailed him the greatest turf miler seen in Europe since Goldikova in 2009-10, guaranteed. He would have 3 or 4 major G1 stakes wins in Europe at a mile besides the 3 major G1 stakes wins he's actually won. If not for Frankel, we seriously could be looking at a turf miler with about 7 or 8 major G1 wins already on his resume' by the end of his 4YO season. Make no mistake, Excelebration is fantastic horse that just had the misfortune of being foaled in the same year as a genetic freak. I think Wise Dan's one of the best American turf horses I've seen in many, many years, at any distance. But if Excelebration brings the same level of "A" game he just brought to Ascot for the QE II Stakes into the BC Mile, I think Wise Dan's running for 2nd place $. JMO.
I'm still going to keep an eye on Moonlight Cloud
That could be, icy, but I'll wait until he gets here before making that evaluation. All I know is that he has never run a bad race no matter what surface he runs on. Wise Dan has the advantage, no doubt. But I have to wait until he gets here and I can see how he acts before I can really make that judgement. The surface for the QEII was difficult, but he won easily, so we just have to wait and see.
Key them both in the super
The reason I favor Wise Dan goes along with thinking about horses in general, that most reach their peak as 5yos. I have friends in England I chat with and they give WD the edge because they feel Excel can't recover from that heavy ground at the QEII
Each yaer my bookie connection at Doncaster sends me the British evaluation of horses on Breeder's Cup day. They ar as much biased as ours are.
Wise Dan does not have to ship as long a distance nor does he have to do through quarantine. He will get more time to gallop on the track than Excelebration will. I do think Obviously is dangerous. He is very fast and may just be able to steal it.
Although Timeform doesn't seem to differentiate both of these ratings were recent so they had to be on turf,EXCELEBRATION 135, Wise Dan 134. Prior to this rating they were rated 133 and 132 respectively.What do think of Obviously? Lot of speed there. If it's hot and it usually is I agree with you but then doesn't WD also have to acclimate along with the others shipping from outside the states and also from East to West?
icy- Racing Post rates Wise Dan on each surface he runs on separately. Timeform just posts the top rating, not sure if they differentiate. Excelebration improved in his QEII, to a new top. As I said, I will be paying attention to hoe he acclimates. OBrien knows what American racing is all about, but he can't make the hose acclimate. The horse has traveled before and won, so to me it is the handling of the climate change and the hardness of the turf.
Timeform rates them about equal but I think Wise Dan is the fresher of the two. Obviously is a fast, intriguing horse who may have a shot at it all. Turned out to be more than a two horse race IMO.
After looking at the weather forecast for BC week, I think I'll have to give the edge to Wise Dan. I'm just not sure how well Excelebration will handle the heat in Southern California.
It all depends on whether Excelebration handles the climate change and the Santa Anita course. He just ran a huge race in the QEII
Flat out there is NO stamina in the North American bred. Why do you think that the IRISH bred wins so many of the big ones? They have not forgotten what the well bred horse is supposed to be able to do.
Great P/CP debate Brian and Jasen, but I think this is the year that the Anericans take the two big grass events with Wise Dan and Point of Entry.
This race could be a great test of how American horses compare to those in Europe. I believe Wise Dan is the best American turf miler in many years and possibly the best American horse in training, if he runs his race and still loses to Excelebration or another European horse, then it will show that the Europeans are breeding and/or training better horses than we are.

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