I never thought I would ever say this about any horse or any race, but the feeling here is Wise Dan is unbeatable at a mile on the grass, and probably unbeatable up to 1 1/8 miles.
Every horse, no matter how great, can be beaten, whether it be due to an off day, a fluke pace, too much of a weight concession, or a surface not to his or her liking. Somewhere, someplace, sometime, there is always the chance a horse is going to run into a better horse on a given day. None of this seems to apply to Wise Dan, which is why I believe he cannot be beaten, as silly a comment as that may seem.
It just seems as if it would be a futile endeavor to bother sending a European horse over here for the Breeders’ Cup Mile unless you’re content with finishing second. You missed the boat with Frankel, and only a freak of a horse of that caliber would be given a chance to beat Wise Dan, so why bother?
Now, of course, a build-up like this often precipitates a defeat, but I’m confident enough having seen what I’ve seen over the past 13 months to firmly believe that is not going to happen. The headline on this column is not meant to provide locker room material, especially for the Euros, it’s just a unique feeling of invincibility I’ve never had before over such a long period of time. I’m sure the Euros felt the same way watching Frankel run over a three-year-period. And there’s no doubt the Australians have felt the same way about Black Caviar. Defeat just never enters the mind.
I have stated several times how I would have liked to see him step up and seek new worlds to conquer and put himself in a category with the truly great geldings in history – for the horse’s legacy and no other reason. Now that it’s apparent that isn’t going to happen and his connections are content to keep him doing what’s he’s been doing, which is winning, all you can do is just enjoy the show he is putting on, because it is quite an extraordinary show.
It has reached a point where Wise Dan’s only opponent each race is the clock, and even the clock is overmatched. Course records come to him with the same ease as his effortless stride that devours his equine opponents race after race.
There is an old Charlton Heston movie called “Major Dundee,” in which the Apache chief after wiping out a cavalry platoon asks one of the dying soldiers, “Who you send against me now?”
Yes, that was a bit of a stretch to make a point, but as a fan of the movie, I can’t help but hear those words after every Wise Dan massacre.
The big turf miler out west obviously is Obviously, and Wise Dan has already beaten him on his home turf in course record time. Za Approval, a winner of six of 12 on grass, went out to California and was beaten 3 1/4 lengths by Obviously at equal weights in the grade I Shoemaker Mile. In Sunday’s Woodbine Mile, Wise Dan beat Za Approval by 3 1/2 lengths in a course record 1:31.73 giving him five pounds and doing it all on his own with little urging through a sizzling final half in :46 1/5.
The Euros also decided to take a crack at him, sending over Trade Storm, who had finished fourth behind two of their best milers, Toronado and Dawn Approach, in the Sussex Stakes, giving the 3-year-olds eight pounds. In the Woodbine Mile, he was dropping 12 pounds off that race and nine pounds off his third in the group II Celebration Mile, and was getting Lasix for the first time. Although he closed well at Woodbine to finish third, he was no match for Wise Dan. Granted, he is not quite in the top echelon, but he has beaten Musir in Dubai and was one to three lengths behind other top-class milers Declaration of War, Aljamaaheer, and The Apache in group I stakes.
This year's top miler in France by far is the filly Moonlight Cloud. In her last five starts dating back to last fall, she has won three group I stakes against the boys and a group III and is undefeated in three starts this year. In her only defeat during that time, she finished eighth to Wise Dan, beaten over six lengths, with a bit of a bumping incident on the backstretch.
Granted, we’re not talking about superstars here, and we’re well aware how dangerous the European milers are. But Wise Dan took care of top-class Euros last year, and we haven’t seen anything much better this year than the Queen Elizabeth II and Prix Jacques le Marois winner Excelebration, who was fourth to Wise Dan in last year’s Mile. Yes, he was trounced four times in second by Frankel, but, as mentioned earlier, that ship has sailed.
So far, we haven’t seen a horse at one mile on the grass who can match Wise Dan’s power in the stretch. Not even a soft course and a horrible trip in the Firecracker could get him beat. It seems inevitable that he will again run the table the rest of the year -- a carbon copy campaign from last year.
Looking at him in his stall recently, I was amazed at his body length and muscle tone, especially in his hind end. You could see how he can generate so much power without really extending himself fully and with limited body movement. He has an extremely efficient engine that enables him to outrun any horse in the stretch, which is why I don’t believe he will beaten again. On top of all that, he has a great mind and is professional in everything he does. He knows what's expected of him and just goes out there and gets it done. In short, he is a winning machine.
I’m not even going to approach the question of the horse’s legacy again, at least at this time, only to say, everyone can look at that aspect of his career from the outside and want to see him strive for Forego, Kelso, and John Henry greatness. They do it only as a fan and an admirer of the horse. But his connections are the only ones who look at it from the inside, and if winning is more important to them (although trainer Charles LoPresti did say earlier he wanted to try him on the dirt), then all we can do is just appreciate what we have and let history take care of the rest.
Just look at the length of Wise Dan's body and the muscle lines in his hind end. It is apparent where he gets all that power from.
Photo by Steve Haskin, please ask before taking.