Wise Dan and jockey John Velazquez win the Bernard BaruchPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
US superstar Wise Dan holds on for return win
Report: USA, Saturday
Saratoga: Bernard Baruch Hcap (Grade 2) 1m ½f, turf, 3yo+
THE eagerly anticipated return of US superstar Wise Dan (Charlie LoPresti/John Velazquez) ended in victory at Saratoga on Saturday when the two-time Horse of the Year narrowly held on to make his first start since May a winning one.
Trained by LoPresti for owner-breeder Morton Fink, Wise Dan was conceding weight to seven rivals in the Bernard Baruch, a Grade 2 turf handicap over 1m½f.
It was the dual Breeders' Cup Mile winner's first outing since undergoing emergency colic surgery and his wellbeing was evident just before the race when he reared up in the stalls and had to be remounted by Velazquez.
The race, however, went much more smoothly as Velazquez settled the popular seven-year-old in fourth as Five Iron set a decent-looking pace.
Wise Dan was angled wide turning in and moved through to take the lead, but was challenged by Optimizer.
Understandably, the son of Wiseman's Ferry may have tired in the closing stages, but he showed he is as tough as he is talented to get the nose verdict following a photo-finish.
A delighted Velazquez said: "He was really tough. He showed he has the heart of a champion, it's incredible to have this horse coming back."
The Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile on September 14, which Wise Dan has won for the past two seasons, is an option, with the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland also mooted as a target before he attempts to join the great Goldikova as a three-time Breeders' Cup Mile winner.
"We wanted a good race for him to get started with," LoPresti said. "He's been through a lot. I knew he was training good and I knew he was going to run good. I wouldn't have been disappointed if he was beat today; it would have been something to build on. He showed today why he is the two-time Horse of the Year."
A rarity in that he has mixed it with the best on turf, dirt and synthetics, Wise Dan has now won 22 times from 30 starts - ten of those triumphs coming at the highest level.