Versatile Wise Dan ran like a 3-2 favorite with a five-length victory in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Morton Fink's homebred showed why he is one of the top horses in the country with his sixth win in eight races since July 4, 2011. Three where on artificial surfaces, two on turf and one on dirt.
Facing a strong field on a yielding course, the 5-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding rallied in the stretch from off the pace under jockey John Velazquez in the one-mile race on the inner turf course and rolled past pacesetter Get Stormy to take the lead. Corporate Jungle trained by Chad Brown closed well in the stretch to finish second. Wise Dan paid $5.
"I guess soft turf didn't bother him," trainer Charles Lopresti said. "He's never worked over it, He never ran over it., I was a little concerned, but Johnny said he wasn't a bit worried. Where I saw him down on the inside backing up a little bit, I said 'Oh, boy,' but Johnny said he had so much horse that he could have pulled the trigger any time he wanted to. He's really confident in this horse. He's done a great job and he loves him. It worked out great."
Wise Dan opened 2012 with a 10 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Ben Ali on the Polytrack at Keeneland on April 22. He was second, beaten a head by Ron the Greek, in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on June 16 on the main track at Churchill Downs. Lopresti had planned to run Wise Dan's half-brother, Successful Dan, in the Whitney and decided not to change after Successful Dan suffered a season-ending injury.
I was trying to keep them apart," Lopresti said. "I knew Wise Dan was better on synthetic and I knew he liked the grass, so I thought we'd try to keep them split up. I worked him twice on the turf. He really didn't handle the dirt track here, but in the last 10 days he's really started to handle it well. But it was too late. Once Successful Dan was out of the Whitney, I had to stick with my plan. I wasn't going to change gears with a horse that never even breezed over the dirt.
Lopresti said he has a lot of opportunities to consider.
"I know he likes this dirt track now, so maybe in 10 days we would breeze him over it," Lopresti said. "Maybe the Woodward. Maybe the Woodbine Mile. Maybe the Bernard Baruch. There are a lot of options to consider. And he loves the mud.
"He's just a neat horse. He loves to run."