Ten-time Grade 1 winner Wise Dan is set to race for the first time in nearly four months in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap. The last thing on trainer Charlie LoPresti's mind, he says, is a third straight Horse of the Year title.
A 7-year-old Morton Fink homebred, Wise Dan has earned six Eclipse Awards, voted Champion Older Male, Champion Turf Male and Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013. En route to the honors, he captured back-to-back editions of the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga.
Forego was the last horse to win three straight Horse of the Year titles, from 1974-76.
“People keep talking to me about Horse of the Year,” LoPresti said. “I don't know how many people have said, 'You need to do this,' or 'You need to do that' to get Horse of the Year. I'm not even thinking about that right now. I'm thinking how lucky we are to get him back to the races, have him out here breezing, getting the chance to get him back in a race, and then we'll go from there. I'm just glad that he's back in training and has a chance to run. Horse of the Year is the furthest thing from my mind right now.”
Wise Dan has won 21 of 29 career races with two seconds and $6,802,920 in purse earnings. Seventeen of those victories have come in graded stakes, including Grade 1s on both turf and dirt.
This year, Wise Dan is 2-for-2, winning the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mark on April 11 and Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on May 3. He underwent emergency colic surgery on May 16 and has been on the road to recovery, returning to the work tab on July 11 and breezing six times since arriving at Saratoga in mid-July.
“I think so many horses, they drill them into the ground to get Horse of the Year,” LoPresti said. “They worry about making stallions rather than doing what's right by the horse. If everything goes right and you get Horse of the Year, fine. But, if you map out a campaign for a horse just to try to get Horse of the Year, I'm not that kind of trainer. It all depends on what the turf writers want, anyway, and what they think.
“There's still a lot of people that say he shouldn't have gotten Horse of the Year [in 2013], and a lot of people voted against him. It's just how they see it. I could say if he wins this race and he comes back from surgery and is undefeated, he should be Horse of the Year. How many horses have colic surgery in the middle of the year and come back? But, that's not what it's all about.”
LoPresti took time to reflect on the accomplishments of Wise Dan, who won his first stakes in the Grade 3 Phoenix over Keeneland's Polytrack in 2010. He posted a career-high Beyer Speed Figure in the 2012 edition of Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland and has victories in successive runnings of the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.
“It's been an unbelievable ride to have a horse like that. It's hard to describe,” he said. “Every time you think about how great this horse is, it's like, 'Wow, can you believe I trained a horse like that?' Or for Mr. Fink to say, 'Can you believe I bred a horse like that?' It's really gratifying, and you just feel like you really accomplished something. There's been a lot of people that have had a big part in this horse.”
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