Wise Dan connections get emotional over feat and Horse of the Year prospects
It killed St Nicholas Abbey, the tough-as-teak 2013 Dubai Sheema Classic winner and triple Coronation Cup victor. Dullahan, the three-time Grade 1 success story, died of a ruptured colon last year. Summer Bird, the 2009 Belmont Stakes winner, succumbed to the gastrointestinal problem in December.
Around 20 per cent of thoroughbred racehorses who undergo surgery for colic never make it off the operating table.
So it was a remarkable achievement for Wise Dan to win in his colic comeback race in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga on Saturday night. Just over three months ago, Wise Dan had surgery.
In the lead-up to Saturday's 1,700-metre contest, trainer Charles LoPresti was playing down talk of a third consecutive Horse of the Year accolade for the seven-year-old gelding.
After Wise Dan withheld the late thrust of Optimizer by a nose, however, the trainer has his eyes set on his charge matching a feat recorded only by Forego in the mid-1970s and Kelso, a decade earlier, in America.
"He should be Horse of the Year now for all he's gone through," LoPresti said. "We all had tears in our eyes after this one.
"I don't think any horse could overcome what he has overcome."
Wise Dan will next compete in the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland on October 4, a race he won in 2012, then will head in November to Santa Anita in a bid to equal Goldikova's record of three successive victories in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
LoPresti was in no mood to play down that improvement would be significant, too.
"What you're going to see the next time is going to be pretty incredible," he said.
What Wise Dan achieved at Saratoga is debatable.
Optimizer, who was having his first run for trainer Jose Fernandez, had beaten only one rival in three previous races and was receiving 11 pounds in the handicap. In Optimizer's pomp, though, he was good enough to chase home Point Of Entry in a Grade 1 last season, when running for D Wayne Lukas.
By conceding so much weight to a horse capable of placing at the highest level, Wise Dan showed that he remains a tough competitor.
Where the gilt to the performance is applied, however, is when you consider that his time was only 0.17 seconds outside the course record set in 1991 by Fourstardave, one of only three horses to be buried at Saratoga.
It was a magnificent training performance from LoPresti, and Wise Dan is now in the box seat for a third Horse of the Year award.
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Published: August 31, 2014 04:00 AM