WHERE DOES WISE DAN LAND IN HISTORY BOOKS?
The recent retirement of eight-year old Thoroughbred racer Wise Dan has left me with a pony preponderance of sorts. Where does he finish as far as the all-time greats are concerned?
A modestly bred son of Wiseman’s Ferry out of Lisa Danielle, this Charlie LoPresti trained gelding set the horse racing world afire with his sizzling runs. Beginning his racing career in 2010, Wise Dan proved to be both versatile and quite quick. Over the next four years, Wise Dan would evolve into the best Thoroughbred on the planet with wins on dirt, synthetic surfaces, and grass. It was the turf, however, where Wise Dan was the toughest. Relegating his runner to the grass was perhaps the best decision LoPresti ever made.
In 2012, Wise Dan exhibited a prowess unequaled by any pony in the United States. After impressive wins in the Foustardave, Woodbine Mile, and Shadwell Turf Mile, the sparkling chestnut turned in a record-breaking performance in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita (1:31.78). His outstanding efforts earned him top honors at the year-end Eclipse Awards as he was named Champion Turf Male, Champion Older Horse, and Horse of the Year.
The 2013 season produced more of the same.as Wise Dan extended his winning streak to 9 before finishing second in the Shadwell Turf Mile after serious rain forced the race off grass and onto the main track . Coming back in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, the LoPresti trained runner again put on a show. Overcoming a smoking front end pace, Wise Dan won the race and took the same trifecta at the Eclipse Awards.
Last year saw sickness and injury limit the then seven-year old to just four starts, but all were graded stakes wins. Unfortunately, Wise Dan was not able to make the Breeders’ Cup for an unprecedented run at even more history.
The 2015 year began with uncertainty about what would happen with this Morton Fink owned runner. After extended rest and rehab, Wise Dan looked more than ready for another big run at eight. Swelling in his ankle however, caused his caring conditioner to pull the plug.
“He was probably working better than ever,” says LoPresti. “His final quarter mile of his last work was 22 and change, but I just didn’t like the way his ankle looked. If he were to run and get hurt, I could never forgive myself. He just means too much to all of us to take that kind of chance.”
Because of his age, LoPresti has decided it is time for his prized pony to hang it up. Could Wise Dan have recouped and returned to run respectably at age 9? Nothing has ever stopped him before. In a career that saw him overcome weather, assigned weight, and any obstacle before him, Wise Dan recorded 23 wins in 31 lifetime starts with 2 second place finishes. In today’s racing world, those numbers are phenomenal. To use a football analogy, Wise Dan flat toted the mail.
“I think he is a lot better than anybody realizes,” says LoPresti. “He’s a great horse that never made excuses. He overcame all the stuff put before him and just won races.”
Was the decision to call it quits the right thing to do? Well, nobody knows Wise Dan better than LoPresti. Having seen Wise Dan run and win on several occasions, his majestic style and warrior-like mentality has made him one of my favorites. So, to answer my own question, move over John Henry, Wise Dan goes down as the greatest turf horse ever!