Standing Up for Wise Dan

Wise Dan repeats in the Breeders Cup Mile.
Photo: Don August


We horse racing fans can be extremely difficult to please.

The most common refrain among hardcore racing enthusiasts is that top-notch horses don't stay on the track long enough. They're retired to the breeding shed early even in the best of situations, with unsoundness also rearing its head on too many occasions.

So what happens when racing is graced with a throwback in every sense of the word, a Grade 1 winner on dirt and turf, a multiple graded stakes-winner on synthetic surfaces, a winner of 13 of his last 15 starts (with two seconds), and a thoroughbred of modest breeding who will return to the races as a 7-year-old? Why, some fans look for reasons to tear him down, of course!

For the second consecutive year, Wise Dan swept Horse of the Year, Champion Older Male, and Champion Turf Male at the Eclipse Awards. Instead of celebrating a gelding who's banked nearly $6.3 million in career earnings, though, a segment of racing fans have turned into Wise Dan bashers, finding reasons why he isn't worthy of the praise that should be showered upon him.

Some say Wise Dan shouldn't have been Champion Older Male, and that the award should be reserved for dirt horses. Until the award is renamed Champion Dirt Male, though, I can't fathom why the no-doubt-about-it Horse of the Year, an older male, shouldn't be a lock for that trophy as well. Furthermore, whether Mucho Macho Man or Game On Dude fans want to admit it or not, neither deserved that award in the first place. Mucho Macho Man won just twice in 2013, while Game On Dude bombed on the biggest stage possible and really didn't beat much in the way of top-notch competition in his victories. Wise Dan was the most consistent older horse in America from 2013's start to its finish, with his lone loss coming to multiple graded stakes-winner Silver Max in a race that was rained off the turf.

Others insist a turf miler should never be rewarded like Wise Dan was last weekend at Gulfstream Park. That's a ridiculous notion. If we start penalizing horses for never winning outside a specific set of guidelines, we'd never hand out a single Eclipse Award. As good as Mucho Macho Man was in his final two starts of 2013, he didn't win in three starts away from Santa Anita. Will Take Charge finished with a flourish, but accomplished nothing in the three Triple Crown races, and in fact won nothing between the Rebel and the Travers. We've already discussed Game On Dude's failure in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and that about sums up the list of serious Horse of the Year contenders.

It's my belief that, in a perfect world, Horse of the Year would be given to the best, most consistent horse around, regardless of divisions. If that's a sprinter who ran everyone off their feet going six furlongs, fine. If it's a miler, fine. If it's a traditional candidate who won going long on dirt, fine.

The fact is that Wise Dan's resume this year is unmatched, and it's not close. He went 6-for-7 at five different tracks with four Grade 1 victories. He set a track record at Woodbine. He carried huge imposts to wins at Churchill Downs and Saratoga, and he capped off his campaign with a second straight win in the Breeders' Cup Mile. From January to December, no top-notch horse was more consistent than Wise Dan, and that's being overlooked because Wise Dan doesn't fit the mold of a traditional champion.

My response: So what?

In the 13-of-15 stretch referenced above, which dates back to October of 2011, Wise Dan has nine Grade 1 wins. His victory in the 2011 Clark Handicap on dirt came over top handicap horses Mission Impazible and Flat Out, and the 2012 Stephen Foster saw the gelding fall to multiple Grade 1 hero Ron the Greek by just a head. A list of horses he's defeated on grass includes Animal Kingdom, Data Link, Excelebration, King Kreesa, Lea, Obviously, and Silver Max, among others, and unlike so many brilliant horses who left us wondering what might have been, Wise Dan will return to the races this year.

So what's the problem? Naysayers need to stop poking holes in Wise Dan's season and begin embracing the thoroughbred for embodying the good parts of this game, ones that aren't emphasized nearly enough. It's not his fault no true traditional champion emerged from a chaotic 2013 racing season, nor is it his fault that his connections realize they have a world-class turf miler on their hands and didn't enter him in races willy-nilly last year.

I look forward to seeing the six-time Eclipse Award honoree strut his stuff this year. I just wish I didn't seem so alone in feeling that way.


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Older Comments about Standing Up for Wise Dan...

I read some comments like The BEST of the BEST run on dirt, or he beat soft fields. Let me just say this. What Dan did in his races aside from the Shadwell 9f poly swamp run was run within himself and ran super fast times in hand. Look at the Woodbine Mile, Maker Mile, The Firecracker, 4star dave, and esecially the breeders cup mile. That was all horse doing his job, and Johnny was a passenger. The Animal is one of the best I have seen grace our turf. I can tell you that the best horses in the USA the last few years have been TURF horses. Wise Dan and Point Of Entry have both been the best older horses and consistent also. NO dirt horse compares with those two in that time period. Also , with the minimal amount of Mile turf races at G1 level in the USA, how do you all expect Dan to run vs G1 winners, when he has won all the major Turf mile races, except the one race on the west coast. If Za Approval(who is a VERY nice horse in his own right) is not a G1 winner, there is a reason for that. Otherwise if no Dan in those Miles, Za Approval could be the one who is a Multiple G1 winner.
This one BLEW away a good field after a 6 furlong pace time that was close to the track record...Good looking gelding too.
Wise Dan is without question the horse of the year. Haters will hate because their guy is in first place if there is no Wise Dan in the mix. It's like that with everything though.
Who cares what people think. Wise Dan has proven himself again and again. People will always have opinions but Dan has nothing to prove, he's a champ!
Agree all the way Dancer,to many think that if your opinion is not as high,it is a sign of not liking the horse. Absolutely not. Even saying a horse is not good is not being a hater or disrespectful. It is when when one gets personal .That is the issue.
I don't see why respectfully disagreeing with another's opinion should be a problem. I disagree on the older male winner - however that does not mean I am disrespecting Wise Dan nor does it mean that I think he is not a great horse. Now if someone is trash talking him or any of them, that is uncalled for. However, we all have the right to our own opinions still, don't we?
Wise Dan is clearly the best horse in the country on the Turf. He has proved that for two years. If he was in Europe people would say he's no Frankel, and because he's in North America people wanna see the champion run on Dirt because thats where American Classic Races are run. Wise Dan is a spectacular horse and if he had beaten Silver Max this past year off the turf people would see his versatility and capability of being able to run on different surfaces...
I have hardly ever seen so much commentary from people who got their way. Really can't wait for the stiff to be off so I can stop being mad at him. Would make watching the races more enjoyable. Yah, like I'm really wondering how those heavy favs keep getting beaten by three year olds. Common denominator, or rather numerator since he's on top, in the wind.
  • Toasting · "Really can't wait for the stiff to be off so I can stop being mad at him." Um...could you elaborate, please? If this means what it could easily come across as meaning, there's a lot wrong with that statement. · 1396 days ago
A horse should not have to run on dirt to prove how good they are, but I wish Wise Dan's connections had not taken such a conservative approach in 2013. He has so much versatility, why not try to expand with him?
Let See! Wise Dan on all but 2 of his races over the last two years, dance every dance and never backed out rain or shine, broke three trak records, ran from the East coast to the West coast and Canada, ran with high weights, he has run on dirt, poly and grass and won on all surfaces, he was voted and honored as one of the three Greatest horses of 2013 and someone has the nerve to say he only proven himself on the turf! What are they reading or seeing?What about theses dirt horses have they run and won on anything else? They say Oh he only runs a mile not a classic distance or he has not run against any good competition, I submitted he has run against anyone that would run against him and that has been some pretty Great horses!If we look at Wise Dan's winning record over the past two years there is no other horse to stand with him Period! The Eclipse Awards are for the Best Horse with the Best Record and we all know that the Best Horse Won! It does not say Anything about Dirt in the Best Older Male Award! Period,, Quit reading things into it to make you Right when you are truley Wrong and You know it! Period..All Fan's and I mean True Fans of the sport to soak in this Great Horse while we have him! Wise Dan will go down in History as one of the Greatest horses this country has ever had and that is so Great to me and True fans of the sport. I just want to Thank the Owner, Trainer and the Support Team you all are the Greatest! We the Fans are so Blessed we have gotten to see this Great horse run! May God continue to Bless Wise Dan! Go Wise Dan!!!!
Florida, I don't know if your last post was directed towards me. If it was, my answer is that Princess of Sylmar, though a very good filly, raced against only a single G1 winner in her three races leading up to the Breeders Cup and that was Royal Delta. The fillies she defeated in the CCAO and the Alabama, races that are historically top G1 races for three year-old fillies, were basically a maiden, optional allowance claimers, listed and unlisted stakes winners, and a couple of fillies that had won G2 and G3 races, the best one of them, the only G2 winner that POS defeated in those two races being Fifty Shades of Hay and she actually finished 4 lengths behind Beholder in a G1 race earlier in the year……The thing is that even though POS won three G1 races leading up to the Breeders Cup, other than Royal Delta, who was already over the top, who did she beat……On the other hand, Beholder, despite not racing during in June, July and August, still made only one start less than POS, 8 to 7; like POS faced older fillies twice and unlike her won both those races; and in her loss in the Oaks was caught at the end and lost by a half-length with the top fillies that POS defeated in the Oaks, also behind Beholder…...Much is made of the fact that POS was over the top in the BC Distaff and I agree. I also think that the same goes for Royal Delta. However, there were other good fillies in the race including Close Hatches, a double G1 winner in 2013 and who, in spite of finishing behind both POS and Beholder in the Oaks, also defeated POS in the Gazelle earlier in the year. Authenticity, though not a G1 winner, did finish in front of G1 winners Joyful Victory (Eclipse finalist for Older Filly in 2013), and Include Me Out, a two time G1 winner in her career in the Zenyatta. In that race Authenticity and those other fillies, finished behind Beholder……In a year when not a lot of the filly and mare races were deep in talent, it would be easy to say that Beholder totally dominated the deepest field this year in the Distaff. It wasn’t just about POS and Royal Delta. The others, including Close Hatches who dominated in her previous two G1 starts and defeated G1 winners Dreaming of Julia and Sweet Lulu, couldn’t even get close to Beholder…….As for Game On Dude, it doesn’t really matter that there was no single dominant horse in those G1 races in the east. In the west there was a single dominant G1 horse in GOD who basically dominated G2 and G3 horses. However, even in his so-called comfort zone, and as the 7-5 favorite with the second choice 4-1, a pretty big favorite IMO, he was nowhere. And his follow-up loss to a three year old in the Clark when he had the victory in his grasp and still lost, further solidifies his overrated reputation, not the type of horse we would call a HOY or even an Eclipse worthy Older Horse. Just my opinion.
Thank you... Dan is the Man!
The difference between Beholder and Game On Dude for me is this: While Game On Dude was dominating California, there was not an older male dominating the handicap dirt races on the East Coast. Flat Out won the Cigar and Suburban, Sahara Sky won the Met Mile, Cross Traffic won the Whitney, Alpha won the Woodward, etc. Meanwhile, while Beholder was dominating the West, Princess of Sylmar was dominating the East. I can respect the arguments validating Beholder's Eclipse, but I still don't agree with it. If Beholder had an excuse on KY Oaks Day and Princess had an excuse for the BCD, then look at the rest of the year. Doing that shows that Princess won the most significant races in their division, hence why she should have won the Eclipse, IMO.
Tom bravo! Right On! Sullivam I totally agree!
Laz,i agree that Dan does not need anyone to vouch for him.Bottom line is that he was the Most Dominant horse in his division this year.For those that want him to abandon his comfort zone of the Mile distance on the Turf. Let me answer them by saying. It was a well established fact before the BC day races. If Dan won hos race,the only horse that could steal the HOTY with A win was WTC. So if switching surfaces would of done the trick. Why didn't WTC and MMM run in the Mile Turf and beat Dan to Guarantee the Crown. Simple,because just like Dan,they have smart people calling the shots.More important at the time is the Big Purse money,as opposed to some silly award.The one that becomes important when there is nothing else to talk about.
GOD beating the same horses is fine. When the same horses are not the best of the division and the best of the division are easy to face, then it becomes an issue
I don’t even see why Wise Dan needs anyone to stand up for him. He was without question the best horse racing in N/A in both 2013 and 2012, and according to the world rankings he’s one pound from being the best in the world and is actually in a tie with Orfevre as the best male horse. If anyone wants to split straws he is also the world’s top rated gelding (not Game On Dude). Some say that Game On Dude should have been awarded the Male Handicap Eclipse even though he basically defeated the same horses time after time in Cali, and then those same people belittle Beholder’s year by saying that she ran and won in her comfort home, Cali. Laughable if you ask me.
I believe there is a strong preference for champion older male to be a dirt horse. That is to say, when Eclipse Award voters are faced with two dominant older male horses, Champion Older Male is awarded to the dirt horse. Likewise, there is a strong preference for the Horse of the Year award to go to a male dirt horse; either Champion Older Male or Champion 3 Year Old Male. However, in some years, we see a dominant horse from another division outclass the dirt males. I don't think that's a snub to dirt racing. I don't think that we're ignoring the accomplishments of other horses. There can only be one champion in each category, and choosing a champion is an acknowledgement of the best horse. I could understand Game on Dude being awarded Champion Older Male, and I would have respected that decision. Likewise, I would have supported Fort Larned being awarded Champion Older Male, Little Mike being awarded Champion Turf horse, and Wise Dan being awarded Horse of the Year. However, it seems that the current Eclipse Award voters recognize that Horse of the Year is the greatest horse, and that Horse of the Year should also win the division awards in which he is nominated. After Dan's sweep of the awards last year, I predicted that he would sweep the awards again this year. I was not surprised, and I am not disappointed by any of the results. Had Game on Dude run a better race in the Breeders Cup, i.e. finishing a close 2nd or 3rd rather than 9th, or if he had easily defeated Will Take Charge in the Clark, I believe the Eclipse Awards would have been different. Unfortunately, Game on Dude's year end performances gave the Eclipse Award voters cause to doubt his previous performances, ultimately leading them to select a more consistent, equally dominant horse, from another racing surface. I understand that Game on Dude fans are disappointed, and I understand why. But I stand with Andrew in celebrating the dominance, consistency, and agelessness of our 6 year old gelding, Champion Turf, Older Male, Horse of the Year. Go Wise Dan!
No. 2011 Clark.
I just had an article posted and my thoughts on why Wise Dan should have only gotten Turf Male, BUT BUT BUT! Wise Dan has a G1 win dirt everyone.....He won the 2012 Clark Handicap at Churchill

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