Racing Post on Wise Dan: ‘Let Him Strut His Stuff on Dirt’

by | 08.13.2013 | 8:40am
Wise Dan rolls in the Fourstardave

Even after another impressive victory over the weekend, yet another racing writer has joined the chorus of those wanting to see reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan compete on the main track.

In a recent article for the Racing Post, Sam Walker joins those hoping the gelding's owner, Morton Fink, will change his mind and run ‘Dan' in a Grade 1 on the dirt, instead of ‘sticking with what works.'

“U.S. turf racing is second tier. It doesn't take a great horse to excel in that division and the situation is nothing like being the best miler in Europe or the best sprinter in Australia,” Walker writes.

He continues, “Being the best turf horse in America is like being the best harness, quarter horse or show pony. It's commendable but largely irrelevant in racing circles unless you also happen to be top class on dirt.”

Wise Dan has proven that he is just as talented on not just turf, but also dirt and synthetic; however, he hasn't been able to show how versatile he is since his races have been limited to eight to nine furlongs on the turf.

“Wise Dan is, as he was last year, potentially the best horse in the States on any surface. As such, it is his versatility that sets him apart. It is this feature that needs to be shown off,” Walker says.

Read more in the Racing Post

  • Tinky

    While the premise is sound, the suggestion is silly. The much more logical suggestion is that Wise Dan should ship to the U.K. to contest a top mile race and see how he fares.

    • Hoops and Horses

      That I do agree on. Lets see Mr. Fink do what Barry Irwin did earlier this year and take Wise Dan to Ascot for British Champions Day in October.

  • Quilla

    Oh, good grief. Neither Wise Dan nor Mort Fink have to prove anything to anybody. Let the horse run where he can win and enjoy the show.

    • ziggiepop

      Thank you! That is exactly what I was thinking.

    • Hoops and Horses

      Tell that to the late Martha Gerry, who owned Forego. She
      knew better than that as Forego was expected to almost always race
      outside his “comfort zone” and carry 130+ pounds most of the time while
      doing so. Mrs. Gerry would probably have been all over Mr. Fink and
      Mr. LoPresti for their choices as well as others of her ilk in my

  • cgriff

    Ultimately – the owner – the man who pays the bills – will make the call. But I do agree with the Post writer that Dan has already shown he is brilliant on any surface last year – so they are not actually keeping him on his “prefered” or “best” surface – he’s so good he can run on anything. It’s almost like Fink is deliberately keeping him on a less showy campaign to allow Successful Dan his chance to shine on the dirt. I really wish Mr. Fink would allow this horse to step that final step up into the heady company of Forego, John Henry and Kelso – but we have to respect that if the man has a Rolls Royce and only wants to drive it on grass even though it would ride just as well on dirt or man made roads – he has that right. After all – we wouldn’t even have Wise Dan if Mr. Fink hadn’t bred him.

    But I do think he is squandering the horse’s chance to be truly immortal in the racing pantheon. You don’t climb to Olympus on a soft grass path. You have to climb it all.

  • GENE

    Where will Wise Dan do the most good for horse racing ? To keep winning on turf where new comers to the game come to see him run, or on dirt where a Post writer wants to see what he might do ? Honestly who cares what Sam Walker wants to see. Dan is the Man on turf and he doing more for racing right now than anything or anyone at the moment.

    • Hoops and Horses

      What would be best for the sport is to see Wise Dan at 1 1/2 Miles in a race like the Sword Dancer this Saturday at Saratoga and/or the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont on September 28. Lets see him go 1 1/2 Miles like REAL champions do.

      • Tinky

        That nonsense again? Right, Lure wasn’t a “real” Champion, nor were Miesque, Godikova, etc., etc., etc.

      • ziggiepop

        Well now that is some horse apples.

  • hadrianmarcus

    “U.S. Turf is second tier…Being the best turf horse in America is like being the best harness, quarter horse or show pony.” Yeah, Mr. Walker, that mindset is a curse to American horse racing. Ironically, being the best dirt horse in America is like being the best harness, quarter horse or show pony… the rest of the world where horses race predominantly on grass and the sport is still revelant in their respective countries. I wonder how John Henry and Fort Marcy ever slummed their way into the Hall of Fame…running on (up-turned nose).. grass.

    • Tinky

      a) producing two anomalies over 50+ years of racing only serves to confirm the author’s point.

      b) John Henry was a wonderful horse in many respects, but he narrowly beat second-rank European horses, and would have had no chance against Europe’s best.

      • Roisin

        And we will never know, will we ?

        • Tinky

          In the sense that we won’t conclusively know whether or not you can fly until you jump off of the roof of a tall building? Yes, you are correct.

      • Ida Lee

        Oh no you didn’t!! You did not dis the One and Only and Great John Henry!! Tinky, really? I do on occasion enjoy your comments but this….Really?

  • Noelle

    I love seeing Wise Dan run on any surface, but really, why the need to denigrate success on the turf? Quarter horse? Show pony? Walker sounds like an awful snob. Wise Dan is racing’s biggest star and biggest story this year.

    • Tinky

      These type of responses reveal a basic misunderstanding of the essence of horse racing. The reason that racing developed was to discover which horse was the best. As the sport developed, various divisions were naturally created as different horses proved best suited to different distances (and later, surfaces).

      While Wise Dan has conclusively proved that he is the best miler on the turf in the U.S., the author is correct to point out that his competition has been inferior to that found in Europe. There is nothing denigrating about that, any more than it would be denigrating to point out that Orb does not appear to be an extraordinary Derby winner, or that Sunday Silence was a better horse than Easy Goer.

      • kyle

        That’s not fair. He beat all the major players but Frankel last year. Excelebration was no match. He beat Obviously on his home turf. He beat Animal Kingdom, subsequent vanquisher of Point of Entry and World Cup victor. It would have been interesting to see him go to Ascot. But there is more than absolute quality to consider when tackling the ship and a trip over a quirky European course.

        • kyle

          Let me add this. As great as Goldikova was she beat some of the weakest fields ever assembled in The BC Mile. You could combine the best runners from her three victories and not achieve the quality of last year’s addition.

          • Tinky

            That I agree with.

        • Tinky

          I agree that shipping across an ocean to race under (often) very different conditions is tricky (which is one reason why the likes of Miesque and Goldikova were so transcendently brilliant). And, in fact, that point helps to illuminate why your first claim is spurious.

          Excelebration was, throughout his career, clearly at his best on softer ground. He was also returning to action a mere 14 days after having dominated the Group I QE II at Ascot, and had to travel thousands of miles to top it off. Even if you weren’t able to discern in it by watching the race, he was uncomfortable on the rock-hard ground, and there is no doubt whatsoever that, due to that confluence of factors, he was a long way from his best.

          Animal Kingdom, as you should recall, encountered a ton of trouble when second to Wise Dan, and both the course and distance favored the latter.

          • kyle

            Well…yeah…there are all kinds of variables and factors and shipping, whether it be from Churchill to Belmont or France to California, is one of the biggest. Some ships seem a lot easier than others, though. The Japanese don’t seem able to ship successfully to America, for instance. Europeans seem to ship just fine to the US. That’s not to say they haven’t demonstrated a general superiority at a distance of ground over the last 15 years or so. Not so at a mile. They’ve had just as many flops as successes. I don’t think they are any better than us at or about eight furlongs. And our division last year, certainly what showed up in the BC, was strong. So I think to discount what Wise Dan pretty much dominated is to sell him unfairly short.

          • Tinky

            I think that your analysis of this issue falls short of your usual high standards. I’ve just explained clearly why Excelebration “flopped”, and why, in that context, beating him was meaningless. I could do the same for quite a few other Europeans that disappointed in the BC over the years, but the important point is that when top-class Euro milers have come to the U.S. and run their races, they almost invariably win. Euros or ex-Euros won 14 of the first 20 BC mile races (70%), when the races were being held at various tracks (not just hard, CA surfaces), and when the race had a higher cache value. To suggest that the mile division in Europe is somehow equivalent in quality to the U.S. turf milers is ludicrous.

          • kyle

            Give me a break with the ground excuse. Excelebration was two for two on firm ground in Europe and his closest run at Frankel was on good to firm. OK, it’s European ground. But to attribute his sound defeat at the hands of Wise Dan to ground alone…how do you know what you saw wasn’t a function of pace? You’re setting up an unlevel field. When the Europeans run their race and win they are just better and when they don’t win they are better too, but circumstances led to their defeat. I stand by my statement that the American mile division year in an year out is equal to their European counterparts. The BC mile has been about 50-50 and that’s with Europe sending most of their best milers through the years. There have been no major upsets save Domedriver ( happened to have him by the way). And for you to count Steinlen as a European…who else? Was Silic European? That’s like saying Raven’s Pass was an American.

          • Tinky

            Again, I’m disappointed with your lack of sophistication on this topic. The race was run in 1:31 and change around tight turns! Do you really not have any idea how different that is to running 1:37 and change (the fastest of three races in which he finished second to Frankel)?

            The only ground that he ever faced that was remotely like American firm ground was in France when he won in 134.60 (without tight turns). That’s about 15 lengths slower than the BC, and many European trainers won’t even consider running their horses on surfaces as hard as SA was last year.

            You also apparently know little about the importance of pointing for a particular, important race with a good horse. Too bad that you can’t ask Whittingham about it, but feel free to ask any top-class trainer (e.g. Mott, Clement, etc.). Excelebration was specifically trained and pointed for the race at Ascot, which he won. Then, as an afterthought, his connections took a shot at the BC 14 days and thousands of miles later. Yet you want to argue that he had no excuses?! Presumably you feel the same way about Dancing Brave, and the others that have pointed for the Arc and “flopped” in the BC.

            You also, oddly, ignore the obvious and important fact that the Europeans are ALWAYS at a serious disadvantage in BC races. What, exactly do you imagine the tally would have been had the American runners shipped to Europe each years and run mostly on softer ground and unfamiliar, undulating courses?

          • kyle

            I don’t think they are at a disadvantage. They duplicate their best or even improve too often for me to believe that. They are not another species. If they were they would be dominating the World Cup. That’s a pretty neutral surface that we do just fine on when we send the right type of horse. Our grass horses can’t ship for some reason. At least we can’t compete over a distance. But again, we are talking, or we initially were, about one horse and one division. You are right about the need for correct preparation. Arc winners have often been over the top. Excelebration may have not been pointed for the BC, but his prep was of the kind that is needed. At worst it was a mixed bag. On the other hand, Wise Dan’s prep was not ideal, either. His connections got caught in between and raced once more than they would have liked. This year they look to be skipping Woodbine. I just think youre being unfair. You’re like the Europeans themselves. It’s always the ground or tight turns when they get beat.

          • Tinky

            No reason to resort to straw man arguments. The ground is not “always” a major factor, but it was with Excelebration.

  • Knowitall

    Fink seems to be a contrary curmudgeon at best. And confused about why Wise Dan won HOTY. Although I do agree with him that sans POE, Wise Dan is unbeatable on turf in US right now. But the other part of the equation for Fink might be a desire to preserve him for future seasons of racing, too. Turf is easier on him.

    • John McEvoy

      Mort Fink a “contrary curmudgeon?” What a cheap potshot at one the nicest men you will never (I hope) meet. As to Sam Walker, last year was he calling for Frankel to run some race at more than a mile?

      • Knowitall

        I didn’t mean it as cheap as you inferred it John. But for a guy that got up three times at the Eclipse Awards and managed to not mention his stellar competition even once, and who is going against his own trainer’s wish and belief that the horse can compete as well on dirt…and saying he laughs at everyone with an interest in his HOTY GELDING that questions his schedule…yeah, “curmudgeon” fits well enough for me. I did note that managing the horse for an even longer career could be a fair factor, but I guess that part wasn’t cheap enough to elicit a comment from you.

        Either way, his horse, and I can see why he leaves him on grass as much as he dominates it.

  • Dan Jividen

    This whole issue regarding Morton Fink’s excessive conservatism may become moot in November. If Wise Dan stays healthy I wouldn’t be surprised to see him running in the G-1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving Friday, at nine furlongs on dirt, to cap off his 2013 season. Morton Fink is known for his conservatism; but he is also known for his good sportsmanship.

  • jahura2

    How in the world did Sam Walker ever get a job writing for the Racing Post? In a time when we cant keep our champions on the track due to injuries and pharmacology, he challenges the greatness of the one racing “hero” we have out there? Its too bad we dont have more Wise Dans, Charles Loprestis and Mort Finks. Our sport would be a lot better. As for me, I am happy to watch Wise Dan run and continue to win on the turf. I will enjoy his greatness without compromise.

  • jttf

    i dont understand how dirt racing is more important than turf racing in america these days. saratoga is the premier meet in america. last week, saratoga had 309 turf horses start, compared to 202 dirt horses start. why does saratoga have more turf horses, if dirt is more important ?

  • Lexington 3

    Media know-nothings and internet know-it-alls can piss off.

    Buy your own horse.

    • Knowitall

      Yeah, and run it in a field somewhere since no fans, conversation, or interest means no sport, Sherlock.

  • J. Cleaver

    His connections have done a fine job so far, nor are they new to the sport.

  • Beach

    Great horses all, but, let’s face it–Frankel never raced on anything but turf and did not race outside Britain; correct me if I’m misremembering, but Black Caviar never raced on anything but turf either and was never stretched out to a mile+. Walker is possibly yet another European trying to convince himself of his own greatness by putting America down. Guess what: We don’t care and Wise Dan is still a wonderful horse, too.

    • Hoops and Horses

      Do agree Frankel should have come over here for the BC, though I believe he didn’t in large part because the now-deceased Sir Henry Cecil was I believe too ill to travel to the US, especially to LA. Had Frankel come over and gone in the 1 1/2 Mile BC Turf, I suspect we would have seen him gun to the lead, go three-quarters in 1:09 and change and the mile in 1:33 and change (maybe even sub-1:33) on his way to shattering the world record, possibly even going under 2:21 for a mile and a half on firm-to-hard turf. We forget how soft the ground is for racing in Europe, and running over much harder ground and no uphill climbs like at Santa Anita, Frankel could easily have gone MUCH faster than we saw him go.

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram