Woodward the Wise Choice

Charlie Lopresti, trainer of Wise Dan, is starting to toss the words Horse of the Year around and it’s obvious after his horse’s impressive score in the Fourstardave that he has his sights set on racing’s most esteemed annual award.

Lopresti has the luxury of running Wise Dan just about anywhere he desires, knowing the son of Wiseman’s Ferry can handle any surface – fast and sloppy dirt tracks, yielding and firm grass courses, and Polytrack and Tapeta synthetic surfaces. He is inbred top and bottom to Round Table, which accounts for his ability to handle any kind of surface. He also handles all distances, having won stakes at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles.

Lopresti also knows that a grade I victory on dirt (he did win the Clark Handicap last year) would go a long way in making Wise Dan a serious Horse of the Year contender.

Well, everything he could ask for is staring him right in the face on Sept. 1. The grade I Woodward Stakes, one of the most prestigious races in the country, is an enticing lure and has history backing it up.

Of the last nine winners of the Woodward, six have gone to be named Horse of the Year that same year, an amazing statistic considering the race designed to determine Horse of the Year, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, has produced only four Horses of the Year in those same nine years and none in the past four years.

In its 58-year history, the Woodward has produced 26 Horses of the Year (that same year). That’s nearly 50% of its winners, another remarkable statistic. In addition, 19 horses who have won the Woodward are in the Hall of Fame.

Another enticement for Wise Dan is the opportunity to lock horns with one of the leading contenders for Horse of the Year, Mucho Macho Man, who like Wise Dan is looking for that all-important grade I victory. A win by either horse would put them right up there with Game On Dude, Ron the Greek, and I’ll Have Another at this point, and the last named has been retired, so each of the top contenders would control his own destiny.

Wise Dan’s versatility no doubt would be strongly considered. As mentioned earlier, he has already won on fast and sloppy dirt tracks, yielding and firm grass courses, and Polytrack and Tapeta, and has handled all distances up to nine furlongs. This year, he’s had only three starts, winning stakes on Polytrack and a yielding turf course and getting beat a head on the dirt in the Stephen Foster, in which he was meandering all over the stretch, allowing Ron the Greek to come through on his inside and nail him on the wire.

We’re now approaching September and Wise Dan needs that grade I dirt victory and needs to beat a horse the caliber of Mucho Macho Man. Here it is, wrapped up in a neat package for him – the right race and the right competition. He also gets a possible crack at To Honor and Serve, one of the top Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile candidates, and last year’s Travers winner Stay Thirsty. So it is apparent the Woodward would move the winner way up in the eyes of the Eclipse voters.

It is difficult to tell which surface is Wise Dan’s best. His most spectacular victories have come over Keeneland’s Polytrack, where he is four-for-four, including victories by 10 1/2 lengths and 15 1/4 lengths; and he sure looked good winning the Fourstardave against a top-class field after being bottled up in traffic down the backstretch. The big question on dirt is how will he handle a track other than Churchill Downs, where he has competed seven times, winning three, two of them in the slop? He certainly hasn’t been as dominant as he has on Polytrack.

That is why, if he is to compete seriously for Horse of the Year, he has to show what he is capable of over a dirt track like Saratoga against top-class horses. If he doesn’t perform as well there as he has on other surfaces, then there is always the option of putting him back on the grass and pointing for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

But this is his big shot at true stardom, with very little downside. It is a lure that is going to be extremely hard for Lopresti and owner/breeder Morton Fink to resist.


Leave a Comment:

Lammtarra's Arc

He has turned into a very nice horse.  He better bring his A game if he is to face Mucho Macho man :)

15 Aug 2012 3:12 PM
It aint easy being good!

Wise Dan is a great horse the horse that is going to be horse of the year will be mucho macho man. Kathy R says he is a full grown man now and his long strides its up ground like usain bolt in the 200m. I think MMM will be your horse of the year and he is going to win out from here to the breeders cup....BOOK IT!

15 Aug 2012 3:20 PM
Rachel NH

They've all got quite a ways to go to catch up with IHA's 3 of the most prestigious Grade 1's and another graded stakes win, for 4. Also, Include Me Out has a better set of credentials with her 4 Graded stakes wins, I think a couple of those are Grade 1's, and Game On Dude is a serious racehorse this year...and has at least one grade 1 win...

Wise Dan, one heck of fast, talented horse who well could be the best and MMM (who I love) still have their work cut out for them for HOY honors...

15 Aug 2012 5:13 PM

In terms of sheer class Wise Dan is one of the top three older horses, the others being Mucho Macho Man and Game on Dude IMO (no disrespect to Ron The Greek). Although WD is extremely versatile his preferred/best surface may not be dirt therefore trainer Lopresti should approach a challenge of Mucho Macho Man in the Woodward with caution so soon after the Fourstardave. It may be better to challenge MMM on the grounds of a stamina test in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. If MMM doesn't show up for that contest all he'd have to do is put away the 3YO challengers and have a good shot in the Breeder's Cup Classic, with a repeat in the Clark as HOTY insurance. Having said all that, Mucho Macho Man presently looks like a "hulk" in his path. That's the way I see it right now.

15 Aug 2012 5:25 PM
Bob from Boston

Greatest line in the history of television was delivered by June Cleaver after Ward grounded Beaver.

June:  Ward, don't you think you're being awful hard on The Beaver.

15 Aug 2012 6:58 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

To Me the top older horses 1-5 are as follows.

Ron The Greek

Mucho macho Man

Wise Dan

Game on dude


Until Game On Dude, or Acclamation beat ANYONE of Significance they sit below the East coast Older males. Mucho macho Man and Ron The greek will be the Top 2 older horses by Years end. IMO.

15 Aug 2012 7:41 PM
Paula Higgins

Ranagulzion ITA with your top 3 picks. Also, would add Acclamation in there too. Yes, Bob from Boston, one of the greatest lines ever on t.v. I have a soft spot for MMM.

15 Aug 2012 9:47 PM

Wise Dan was a wonderful lad to watch at Keeneland I wish him all the luck, poly or no, he will be impressive - I am sure of it.

15 Aug 2012 10:22 PM

wise dan - what a lad

I enjoyed watching him at Keeneland - you know - the paddock is so fantastic there.  Poly or whatever he will be impressive.

Also wondering about Archwarrior - 2 yo  scratched last wk at saratoga - mud i think was the decisive factor.  anyone have any idea about what is going on with him?  His workouts are impressive and maybe is one of Pletcher's secret weapons - was disappointed to not see him run - read he hung in there with workout with stay thirsty

15 Aug 2012 11:46 PM

Wise Dan has done well so far,I hope he runs in the mile and a quarter classic. He has earned the role of favorite for the race at least for horses out of the US.

16 Aug 2012 9:07 AM
Bill Two

No question that dirt is Wise Dan's least favorite surface meaning that if he enters and convincingly wins the Woodward his stock will definitely go off the charts.  You have to love a horse like this.  I hadn't thought of it, but the Round Table connection makes a lot of sense.

16 Aug 2012 10:06 AM
Love 'em all

Wise Dan was my fav for last weekend's Fourstardave, and did he ever deliver!  Wow!  Five lengths ahead of the others ... with the greatest of ease.  

WD's trainer is so proud of him, as he should be, and his comments were a delight to read.  Love knowing a horse loves to run ... and will run on anything.  You can't beat that!

Go get 'em, Wise Dan!  

16 Aug 2012 10:14 AM
lunar spook

we will see if wise dan is horse of the year after he gets his keister handed to him by fort larned and to honor and serve !

16 Aug 2012 12:04 PM
Pedigree Ann

There is no one horse in the country who is undeniably the best older horse, but Ron the Greek has the best credentials so far. G1 wins in the Santa Anita H and Stephen Foster, an honorable second in the Whitney, giving weight and a pace advantage to the the winner. Moreover, he has a win in a G1 at 10f.

However, Wise Dan was beaten only a nose in Foster, giving several pounds, so was the moral winner. 9f may be his limit, for RtG mowed him down late, but with the Woodward only 9f as well...,

What has Mucho Macho Man won? Two races with old G1 names that are debased by the fact that they are now at the wrong distances - a one-turn mile and a one-turn 9f, and both G2. And a lot of the horses he beat in the Pseudo-Suburban were also behind Alternation in the Pimlico Special.

Like Black Tie Affair before him, Alternation has connections who prefer to campaign him in the Midwest. He has won 5 of 6 and beat RtG and many of the other usual suspects (Hymnbook, Yawanna Twist, Nehro) in the Oaklawn H to go with his win in the Special. His Foster run (5th) was below par, but his recent laugher shows he is fine physically. Wins in the Hawthorne Gold Cup and the BC Classic could land him a championship.

Racing at 9f all year, then trying to win over horses proven at 10f or more in the BC Classic has proven to be a difficult way to win the big prize. Why the major tracks in the East stopped running their G1 10f handicaps is a mystery to me.  

16 Aug 2012 12:11 PM

Agreed. The Woodward is the best choice for the versatile Wise Dan to market his talents and gain acclaim. Next column.

16 Aug 2012 12:18 PM

I'm sorry but Wise Dan looks to only have 2 chances to win a G.I this year. Woodward/Woodbine Mile and a Breeders' Cup race. At best he wins 2 G.I's. Compared to Ron the Greek (2) I'll Have Another (3) and Game on Dude (1), Fort Larned (1), Bodemeister (1), Paynter (1), and Acclamation (2). Wise Dan has some work to do, especially with I'll Have Another having 3 G.I wins. Mucho Macho Man, who has no G.I wins is ahead of Wise Dan. SO this HOY talk needs to stop until he wins a G.I.

16 Aug 2012 12:40 PM
lunar spook

my O.M.O.C. figures show that fort larned should win the woodward hands down!

16 Aug 2012 1:07 PM
lunar spook

my O.M.O.C.INDEX shows this horse will run very poorly in the woodward!

16 Aug 2012 2:46 PM

I for one am a lover of the handicap division.  I relish the end of the Triple Crown season when we spend so many hours drooling over potential superstars only to have them fall by the wayside, one by one.

Give me the Wise and Successful Dan's, the Jackson Bends, the Mucho Macho Mans and the Dudes.  The Acclamations, Fort Larneds, Richard Kids...you get the picture. I love handicap horses, the tried and the true.  We need to spend more time exalting their virtues!

Thanks for the focus on Wise Dan, and recently Winter Memories who was one of my favorites. So disappointing to lose her and Awesome Maria this year to retirement.  The female division has definately had some setbacks...

16 Aug 2012 8:05 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Bob from Boston

   That is the prevailing theory but I think the greatest line is in the episode of Beaver entitled "Eddie's Girl."  Wally, Beaver, and Eddie are up in the boy's room talking about what they're going to do that day. Eddie says he might go over and see his girl- Carolyn Cunningham and asks Wally if he wants to go too. Wally says that he doesn't know if he wants to go because he doesn't even know her. Eddie says, "Ah, I bet you're scared of girls."  Beaver, outraged, and in an emphatic loud voice defends his brother, "He is not !!!! I bet Wally could lick any girl in the high school !!!"

16 Aug 2012 8:59 PM
Mike Relva

Lunar Spook

He won't get "his keister handed to him".  Talking a little trash, aren't we?

16 Aug 2012 9:36 PM

I don't know much about Wise Dan or his keister, but Hansen was last seen soaking his tail in blue sudsy water somewhere in West Virginia, and in the voice of Mr. Ed turned to his owner and said, "Look, Doc, this is the last time we are going through this!"

These Beaver episodes are a trip!

It amazed me that at 7AM June was dressed, in makeup and pearls and heels, and getting the boys up for school and not a hair out of place.

Anyway nice info on Wise Dan, Steve.  Looks like a BC Classic of older guys, a Dude, a Dan, and a very Macho Man vs. what is left of the 3 yr. olds Paynter, maybe Hansen and hopefully Bode is out of the hospital if they figure out what is wrong.  Get well Bode we need you.  Who is left for the Travers?  Dullahan and Stealcase?

17 Aug 2012 12:50 AM
lunar spook

MIKE RELVA- sure hope your not betting on wise dan , most over rated horse to come down the pike since STAY THIRSTY (and yes i will talk trash when i know im right) according to my very reliable O.M.O.C. INDEX wise dan will finish out of the money!

17 Aug 2012 8:31 AM
Lammtarra's Arc

Josh-  Mucho Macho man has beaten some VERY good GR1 horses(ron the GReek included),  he has 2 GR2's, and a GR3.  One GR1 and he shoots up the rankings for the HOTY honors.  The East coast is loaded with older horses, and that leaves it wide open for horses like GOD, and Acclamation to win easy GR1's out west, and that keeps their names in the mix.  The Classic will probably decide HOTY.  

17 Aug 2012 4:14 PM
Tiz Herself

I love Wise Dan - have for a long time. Like both 'Dans' actually... Successful Dan as well (saw him win at Keeneland in October 2010 - will treasure that forever). Can't imagine having Wise Dan, Successful Dan and Turallure in the same barn.

Steve - what'd you think of Kauai Katie? Love Katie already - the Adirondack never fails for me to find a filly to fall in love with - as other favorites My Miss Aurelia, Position Limit, Octave, Folklore, You, and Sky Beauty...

Stonestreet's got some talented ladies, what with Katie, Teen Pauline, Dreaming of Julia and My Miss Aurelia - am loving it!

Would love to see both Dans at the BC.

17 Aug 2012 11:25 PM
Tiz Herself

Wish Union Rags the best at stud - he'll be happy and well cared for at Lane's End and when I return to Kentucky hope to see him, Curlin, Quality Road, A.P. Indy, After Market, Courageous Cat, the giant Rock Hard Ten and the other Lane's End boys!

Get better Bode! Speedy recovery!

17 Aug 2012 11:28 PM
:46 Breezing

Steve, your obviously a STANDOUT turf writer, but you didn't do your your usual due diligence.  Yes, Wise Dan is a versatile and highly decorated horse..but the REAL STORY is trainer Charles LoPresti.   He's the one fully deserving of your full literary talents.    What a fantastic, UNDER THE RADAR trainer.  

17 Aug 2012 11:37 PM

I like both of the Dans, and when you look at their dam's pedigree you can see part of why both are such quality.

Lisa Danielle is by a Princequillo line stallion out of a Secretariat mare. So you have linebreeding to a high quality stallion who carried plenty of toughness and stamina.

I hope both of these grand geldings have long and productive careers!

18 Aug 2012 1:44 AM
Mike Relva

Lunar Spook

Sounds like you're trying to channel Draynay.

18 Aug 2012 1:09 PM
Linda in Texas

Hail to Little Mike. What a huge

heart of desire in that fella.

That was just a treat to watch.

I thought he was going to be overtaken there at the end. But

he wouldn't hear of it. His ears

were flat on his head as he heard

hoof prints drawing nigh behind him.

How nice for The Vaccarezza's, his jockey and handlers and of course

Little Mike.

19 Aug 2012 2:05 PM

Hope Wise Dan continues to do well.  This year's Breeders Cup doesn't have any standout stars as of yet.  Maybe Wise Dan will be the one.

19 Aug 2012 3:48 PM

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