Horse of the Year Wise Dan breezed a “bullet” half-mile on the Polytrack at Keeneland on Saturday in :46.20 and later was named the 128-pound high weight for the 23rd running of the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (Grade II) at Churchill Downs on June 29 by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman.
“He worked really easily and went in hand without being asked to do too much,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said. “He's doing as well as I could ask.
“The plan is still to go to the Firecracker, but I'll need to discuss the weights with (owner/breeder) Mr. (Mort) Fink.”
Wise Dan has won his last six starts and five straight Grade I races. In his two starts of 2013, he won the Maker's 46 Mile (GI) at Keeneland and then recorded a 4 ¾-length victory in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) on Kentucky Derby Day. Overall, he has won 15 of his 22 starts and has a bankroll of $4,059,631.
A 6-year-old gelding by Wiseman's Ferry, Wise Dan won the 2011 Firecracker at odds of more than 14-1 in his turf debut. No horse has won the Firecracker twice.
Weighted next at 123 pounds is Little Mike, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Turf (GI). A 12-time winner with earnings of more than $3 million, Little Mike has finished off the board in his two starts this year, both of which came in Dubai.
Priscilla Vaccarezza's Little Mike is not expected to enter the Firecracker and instead will point to the United Nations (GI) at Monmouth Park on July 6.
The next two high weights at 120 pounds are Za Approval and Optimizer.
Live Oak Plantation's homebred Za Approval is coming off back-to-back wins in the Appleton (GIII) and Red Bank (GIII) and Calumet Farm's Optimizer, a three-time Grade III winner, most recently finished second behind Point of Entry in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (GI) at Belmont Park.
Other than Wise Dan, horses known to be under consideration for the Firecracker (with trainer and weight) include Corporate Jungle (Tom Proctor, 117), Lea (Al Stall Jr., 117), Daddy Nose Best (Steve Asmussen, 116), Seruni (Phil Oliver, 115), Laurie's Rocket (D. Wayne Lukas, 114) and Dimension-GB (Conor Murphy, 113).
Entries for the Firecracker Handicap will be taken Wednesday, June 26.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2017 Paulick Report.