December 2013 Issue - page 6

Page 6
December 2013
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
by Terry Conway
There was a lot of chirping
this summer and fall surrounding
Wise Dan and his connections’
unwillingness to tackle tougher
foes and longer distances such as
in the mile-and-quarter Breeders’
Cup Classic. If he’s such a domi-
nant horse, the pundits carped,
let’s see him challenge the heavy
hitters.
His connections-- owner
Morton Fink and trainer Charlie
LoPresti-- didn’t waver. Their
convictions paid off when Wise
Dan stormed down the middle
of the turf course defending his
crown in the $2 Million BC Mile
at Santa Anita Park on November
2. The victory should propel the
six-year old gelding to a second
consecutive Horse of the Year
title at the Eclipse Awards in
January. Wise Dan is a son of
Wiseman’s Ferry who is based at
Dana Point Farm in tiny Len-
hartsville, Pa.
In the BC Mile, Wise Dan
tumbled out of the gate, almost
falling to his knees. Jose Lezca-
no, who picked up the reins from
injured Hall of Fame jockey John
Velazquez, had to go three wide
around the final turn and four
wide into the stretch. Still, Wise
Dan stormed down the turf course
running down Za Approval in the
late stretch to capture the race by
three-quarters of a length.
“For all the people that
thought he lost a step, he sure
didn’t lose a step,” LoPresti de-
clared. “He overcame a lot today.
He’s the best horse in the world.
Awards don’t matter to me and
I don’t want to hear anyone talk
again about him going on dirt,
mile and a quarter or anything.”
Wise Dan Rolls in BC Mile, Awaits Another HOTY
Indeed, Wise Dan is truly a
great horse. Boasting an amazing
cruising speed, he runs down his
rivals, and does it in machine-like
fashion. Winning the Breeders’
Cup Classic would be superla-
tive, but his connections have
found Wise Dan’s niche in life.
Wise Dan has dominated the turf
mile like no other American horse
before him. He is no less a great
horse than Euro milers Frankel
and Goldikova and sprinter Black
Caviar.
Wise Dan is a throwback
to the age of John Henry, and
Forego and Kelso, geldings that
only have value on the race-
track, so they keep on racing
and excelling. For folks who say
racehorses really don’t know
where the finish line is, take a
good and hard look at relentless
Wise Dan. He has finished ahead
of all but one of his opponents in
his six races this year. Before that
loss, he had won nine consecutive
races dating to August 2012, five
of them Grade I starts, including
last year when he ran the fastest
Mile-- 1 minute 31.78 seconds-
- in the 29-year history of the
Breeders’ Cup.
In early October Wise Dan’s
nine-race win streak came to an
end at Keeneland in the $750,000
Shadwell Stakes when Silver
Max defeated him by a length
and quarter. The race was moved
to the main track after a torren-
tial downpour. Without rain, it is
likely there would have been a far
different outcome. And Wise Dan
would have been unbeaten in two
years of racing.
Roll these names around.
Secretariat. Forego. Affirmed.
John Henry. Cigar. And Curlin.
Come January, Wise Dan will
likely join those legendary six as
the only horses to win more than
one Horse of the Year title since
the Eclipse Awards began in 1972.
Wise Dan’s 19 career vic-
tories are the same number as
Cigar’s, and more than Curlin or
Secretariat, and his $6.2 million
in earnings put him fourth among
the seven behind Curlin’s $10.5
million, Cigar’s $9.99 million,
and John Henry’s $6.59 mil-
lion, but more than Secretariat,
Forego, and Affirmed combined
to win in the 1970s. Wise Dan’s
seven Grade 1 victories in 2012
and 2013 are equal to what Curlin
posted in 2007 and 2008.
LoPresti has a small stable
in Kentucky and the best horse
in America. Wise Dan became
the fourth horse to score back-to-
back victories in the Mile. There
is no talk of retirement for a horse
that simply loves to run and loves
to win.
“What he does for the fans
and what he does for us, all my
team that’s worked with him,”
LoPresti said. “He is just a dream
come true.”
The trainer paused and
added, “I hope he is around for a
lot more years.”
BC Classic
The story of Mucho Macho
Man has all the makings of a
Hollywood film. Set against a
backdrop of the gorgeous San
Gabriel mountains cast red by
the setting sun, Mucho Macho
Man crafted a perfect movie
ending to a heart-warming tale
by desperately holding off Will
Take Charge running on the
outside and Declaration of War
charging up the middle to win
America’s richest race, the $5
Million Breeders’ Cup Classic,
by a nose.
Trainer Kathy Ritvo was
told five years ago she needed a
heart transplant. By the time her
doctors found a donor she had
just weeks to live. Ritvo survived
the transplant and returned to her
horses. Jockey Gary Stevens had
been retired for seven years be-
fore he returned to the saddle this
year. Not much was going right
until he won the Preakness and
then big wins piled up. At age 50,
an ex-actor and broadcaster, it
was Stevens’ first Breeders’ Cup
Classic score. He thanked Ritvo
after the race for “making an old
man very happy”.
For Ritvo the success marked
her as the first woman to train a
winner of the Classic - and the
unlikely duo did it with a horse
that had been thought dead at
birth.
After a subpar spring Much
Macho Man spent time at the
Fair Hill Training Center getting
R&R and jumpstarting his racing
career. He finished an impressive
third in the Whitney Handicap
and then scored in the Awesome
Again at Santa Anita to add a
Grade-1 win to his resume. A
close second in the 2012 Breed-
ers’ Cup, in this year’s Classic
Mucho Macho Man had the pace,
the ideal racing style, a penchant
for the course and he was peaking
at just the right time. In a classic
Stevens’ tactic, at the head of
the stretch he went for it, opened
up by three lengths and held on,
barely.
Will Take Charge won the
Travers in Saratoga and came
to Parx in September. He won
the Pennsylvania Derby and six
weeks later nearly won the Clas-
sic, falling short by a nose.
“I realize the ups and downs
of the sport better than probably
most, but defeats like that are
hard to take,” D. Wayne Lukas la-
mented after the race. “This is the
ultimate. Other than the Derby,
this is the one you want.”
Switching the Pennsylvania
Derby from Labor Day to the
third Saturday in September a
few years back always made
sense in relationship to the timing
of the Classic. Just how right will
be proved when Will Take Charge
is named 3-year-old champion.
Paynter’s final race was
the Classic where he finished
seventh. He nearly died last year
after he was stricken with colitis,
laminitis, a swelling of the large
intestine and a fever. He lost 200
pounds. He came to Fair Hill for
six weeks of aftercare stabled in
Bruce Jackson’s barn. Not only
did he survive, he lived to race
again. Paynter’s story continues
as he heads off to stud at Winstar
Farm. Paynter won four of 10
career starts for $1,101,924. Fort
Larned, the winner of the 2012
BC Classic and a son of PA-based
stallion E Dubai, finished fourth
and has been retired to Adena
Springs.
Clock Strikes Midnight
for Princess
Born and raised at Sylmar
Farm near Oxford, Pa, Princess
of Sylmar had won four straight
Grade I stakes from May through
September, establishing herself
as the top 3-year-old filly in the
country. After the filly’s win in
the Beldame at Belmont Park, her
majority owner Ed Stanco was
not going to the BC Distaff. The
filly had career earnings of $1.6
million.
“She’s a gift, a blessing, and
we treat her that way,” he said.
“Hopefully, she has a lot of rac-
ing in her next year. We’re here
to race. We don’t get into any of
this return on investment. I think
she’s done enough in her divi-
sion. She’s done it all, and then
she won against the top older
female.”
Then Stanco and his partners
had a change of heart and paid
a supplementary entry fee of
$100,000 and shipped her to run
in the Distaff.
Princess of Sylmar had
virtually clinched the 3-year-
old filly championship. The
only way she could mess it up:
compete in the Breeders’ Cup
Distaff and lose. After eight
races in 2013, the Princess came
up empty at Santa Anita. Her
powerful stretch run never mate-
rialized and she struggled home
a badly beaten sixth. Odds are
the winner Beholder will earn
the Eclipse.
After the race Stanco surpris-
ingly downplayed the Eclipse
Award which significantly boosts
the value of any horse in the
marketplace.
(Continued on page 25)
Wise Dan, after almost falling to his knees out of the gate, ran down
his rivals in a blazing display of speed at the $2 million BC Mile to
win by three-quarters of a length.
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