Wise Dan cuts down his rivals in the Shadwell Turf MilePICTURE: EquiSport Photos
Wise Dan runs down Keeneland rivals
Report: USA, Saturday
Keeneland: Shadwell Turf Mile (Grade 1) 1m, turf, 3yo+
WISE DAN (Charlie LoPresti/John Velazquez) showed he will not be giving up his Breeders' Cup Mile crown without a serious fight as he cut down his rivals with a breathtaking stretch run after a far from ideal trip in the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile.
Sent off 9-10 favourite against some of North America's top milers, owner Morton Fink's hugely popular seven-year-old had to overcome a degree of adversity before landing the first-ever seven-figure prize at his home track, Keeneland.
Indeed, after a slowish start he was last of the eight runners in the early stages under John Velazquez, who was to complete a Grade 1 hat-trick at Keeneland after victories on Dayatthespa and Carpe Diem earlier on the card.
"He just threw his head to the opposite side and the doors opened, so he got surprised and he didn't break very good," reported Velazquez. "And now I'm a little concerned, because now I'm going to be behind horses that are slower than he's supposed to be. I was hoping he would settle going into the first turn. I let him run a little to the first turn. When I got a nice position, I tried to slow him down behind horses."
While Wise Dan was trying to get a tab on the leaders, his old adversary Silver Max had enjoyed a fairly easy time up front, mirroring the scenario in which he had inflicted Wise Dan's most recent defeat in the same race 12 months previously - albeit when the contest was moved off the grass after heavy rain.
Wise Dan looked in trouble as he came into the stretch in sixth place and was forced to rally six wide. But though it took him a while to get into full stride, once he got moving he was able to sweep past 20-1 shot Grand Arch and Sayaad inside the final furlong to record his fourth win of a season interrupted by colic surgery. The dual Horse of the Year scored by a length.
"His head was turned sideways and he missed the break a little bit but that's the same kind of thing that happened to him in the Breeders' Cup last year," said LoPresti, who admitted to mid-race concerns.
"I was a little worried down the backside," said the trainer. "Silver Max got a slow quarter up front and that's how he wins races. I thought, ‘Man, somebody's got to go with him.' The way this unfolded, for him to win the way he did, he ran a great race. Johnny did a great job; he didn't panic.
"He kinda stumbled a few steps out of the gate. He wasn't where we wanted him to be but he still overcame it."He's just an incredible horse. He's incredible. That's all I can say. Thank God."
For the record, Wise Dan has now won his last 14 races on turf, among them all four of his 2014 starts. He has won 23 of his 31 career starts, among them seven graded-stakes wins at Keeneland, which is his home track. He has been beaten only twice, and never on turf, since October 2011; he has won 11 Grade 1s altogether.
Velazquez added: "The whole way down the backside I was worried he would clip heels because he was pretty strong. I was saying. ‘Buddy, be easy, easy, easy.' Once I pulled him out of there, he kicked his usual kick. When I pulled him out, he was there for me."
Although LoPresti appeared to leave the door ajar for a crack at the Breeders' Cup Classic on dirt, North America's senior race, owner Mort Fink told the Blood-Horse he would be following his tried-and-tested path and staying on turf in a bid to complete a hat-trick in the Mile at Santa Anita next month.
"He's going where he's always gone, I see no reason to change anything," Fink said.
But Wise Dan could run on dirt before the end of the year as LoPresti pointed to the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at the end of November, a race he won in 2011 before earning legendary status on turf.
Carpe Diem siezing the initiative in the Futurity at KeenelandPICTURE: Equisport
Also on Saturday
Keeneland: Dixiana Breeders' Futurity (Grade 1) 1m1/2f, dirt, 2yo
Grade 1 winner Competitive Edge may be sidelined for the remainder of the season but there appears to be no shortage of high-calibre deputies for the star two-year-old in the Todd Pletcher barn.
No sooner had Pletcher saddled the maiden winner Daredevil to win the Champagne Stakes at Belmont in fine style than Carpe Diem (John Velazquez), a $1.6m purchase at the Ocala horses-in-training sale, annihilated his rivals in the Breeders' Futurity.
Owned in partnership by WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables, the son of Giant's Causeway ensured he will be a major contender for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile as he cleared away in the stretch to score by more than six lengths in this $500,000 event.
WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden commented: "He ran great at Saratoga and then to come here in a Grade 1 like this and put it all together like that around two turns, it's very exciting. This horse is a beautiful horse, he's got a great pedigree and we hoping to make a stallion. I think we did that today."
Keeneland: First Lady Stakes (Grade 1) 1m, turf, 3yo+ f/m
The same two horses filled the first two places as 12 months ago but they came home in a different order this time as Dayatthespa (Chad Brown/John Velazquez) turned the tables on Godolphin's Better Lucky.
Sent off a 3.6-1 chance, the consistent five-year-old sat in second behind Istanford before taking control in the stretch and holding Better Lucky by a length and a quarter to claim the second Grade 1 victory of her career after her success in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at the same venue two years ago. The favourite Filimbi took third.