Wise Dan: Breeders' Cup Mile winner won third race of 2013PICTURE: EquiSport Photos/Jessie Holmes
Wise Dan too hot for Firecracker rivals
Report: USA, Saturday 3.11am Sun BST
Churchill Downs: Firecracker Hcap (Grade 2) 1m, turf, 3yo+
WISE DAN (Charles LoPresti/John Velazquez) took his imposing record to ten victories from his last 11 starts when he edged away in the stretch to give weight and a beating to his Firecracker rivals.
In a race run on yielding ground amid a driving rainstorm, the six-year-old won his third race of the year by two lengths over Lea, who finished well to take second from Seruni, who set a tepid pace throughout.
Although his trainer had moaned about Wise Dan's weight assignment of 128lb (9st 2lb), the Breeders' Cup Mile victor was sent off 1-5 favourite as he gave away 11lb-plus to a small field of inferior rivals, abbreviated by three after late scratches on the rain-softened ground.
Wise Dan, who hit the front from Serumi on the hedge midway through the stretch, recorded a time of 1m39.82 - the slowest in the race's history.
It wasn't quite as straightforward as all that, however, as the winner was trapped in a pocket before butting through a gap on the inside and bumping the hedge a furlong out, then seeming almost to lose his footing close to home.
"It was really tough," LoPresti said. "I'm just glad he got it done. I was really worried about it. I had been worried about the weights.
"It wasn't so much the weight on him, but the spread. The first thing I said to Johnny was, ‘Is he OK?' because it wasn't a pretty race. We got to hope he comes back good. Now that it's over I can tell you I was worried. I'm proud of him. He's a pretty amazing horse."
Velazquez was unflustered. "I was in the right spot the whole way and he was going well the whole way," he said.
"I didn't want to make a premature move. I decided to wait. I had to work my way out. If you watch the head-on, he brushes up against the bushes and he even jumped right at the eighth-pole.
"By the sixteenth-pole, though, he got through. He's just a very good horse. I know he can handle it when things get tight. He's big enough to push his way through. I've ridden him that way before and I wasn't worried about it."
Also on Saturday
Belmont Park: New York Stakes (Grade 2) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+
After disappointing in soft ground on her previous outing, Former French-trained Starformer (Bill Mott/Edgar Prado) returned to form with a strong finishing kick.
West-coast visitor Lady Of Shamrock again ran out of ground after charging from last place to nab second from the favourite Dream Peace.
Hollywood Park: Shoemaker Mile (Grade 1) 1m, turf, 3yo+
A thoroughly deserved Grade 1 victory for Breeders' Cup Mile third Obviously (Mike Mitchell/Joe Talamo) scored by more than three lengths finally to break through at the top level after multiple wins at Grade 2 level. The five-year-old started his life in Ireland, where he won at Cork and Dundalk for Peter Fahey.
Hollywood Park: Triple Bend Hcap (Grade 1) 7f, AW, 3yo+
A 17-2 upset for Centralinteligence (Ron Ellis/Victor Espinoza), whose three previous wins were in non-graded company, as he went four wide on the turn before pulling away late to claim the race by three and a half over front-running Comma To The Top. The favourite Jimmy Creed, who was last, lost a front shoe.
Prairie Meadows: Cornhusker Hcap (Grade 3) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+
Slight odds-on favourite Prayer For Relief (Steve Asmussen/ Ricardo Santana) won his first race since the 2011 Super Derby, overcoming Taptowne in the last 100 yards to score by nearly two lengths.