Maria Vorhauer reached out to the friendly but feisty chestnut nose protruding before her at Keeneland Wednesday morning, gratefully doling out a pat to the horse who is creating a groundswell of excitement that extends far beyond his immediate connections.
“He reminds me a lot of his father,” Vorhauer smiled as she admired the jack-of-all-trades gelding that is Wise Dan. “There’s not too many stallions who have a horse like Wise Dan.”
As his freakishly easy triumph in Sunday’s Grade I Woodbine Mile further demonstrated, there aren’t too many horses like Wise Dan, period. A Grade I winner on dirt and turf and multiple graded stakes victor and track record holder on synthetics, there isn’t surface the Charlie Lopresti-trained gelding can’t wrestle into submission – often while looking like a horse completing routine exercise.
Among those cheering hardest every time Wise Dan hits the track is the crew from Dana Point Farm in Pennsylvania, home of Wise Dan’s sire, Wiseman’s Ferry. Though Wiseman’s Ferry has routinely been among the state’s leading stallions since relocating from Castleton Lyons to Dana Point in 2009, Wise Dan has been the proverbial game-changer for his sire by proving the son of Hennessy can get a top class runner that can dominate in any forum.
“There are many people who are very supportive of (Wise Dan) with the emails and congratulations to us, like we own him,” said Dana Point manager Vorhauer, who was visiting Wise Dan for the first time on Wednesday. “But we feel like he’s our horse because I think he’s going to put Wiseman’s Ferry on the map. I feel that it’s going to take it to a different level for us.”
Co-owned in his racing days by Morton Fink, the owner and breeder of Wise Dan, Wiseman’s Ferry has had a workman-like career in the shed and stood the 2012 season for an advertised fee of $3,500. Through six crops of racing age, the 13-year-old stallion has 160 winners from 205 starters including multiple Grade II winner Riding the River.
The same tenacity that helped make Wiseman’s Ferry a multiple graded stakes winner on the track is most evident in his most successful son. Blessed with an effortless stride and added maturity in this his five-year-old season, Wise Dan can just as easily dictate the fractions up front as he can relax off the bridle behind foes. After closing out his 2011 campaign with a victory in the Grade I Clark Handicap on the main track at Churchill Downs, the half brother to graded stakes winner Successful Dan has rattled off wins this season in the Grade III Ben Ali Stakes over the Polytrack at Keeneland and notched turf triumphs in the Grade II Fourstardave at Saratoga and Woodbine Mile with his lone loss being a head defeat to Ron the Greek in the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill in June.
“He looks like a Wiseman’s Ferry and he has a lot of that personality to him, a little bit of a clown,” Vorhauer said of Wise Dan. “We’re just real excited and Charlie has done a great job with the horse. It’s kind of a shame the stallion is not getting a lot of recognition with it. I don’t want him to get a lot of recognition, the horse himself should get the recognition and the connections should get the recognition. But maybe it will get us some breedings.”
Lopresti indicated Wednesday he would probably train Wise Dan up to this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park, with a start in the Mile the most likely spot for him although the $5 million Classic is still on the table.
Regardless what Wise Dan accomplishes for the remainder of the season and beyond, he has already provided an indelible luster to his sire.
“It actually made my day (getting to see Wise Dan),” Vorhauer said. “When you get a horse like that… they won’t call (Wiseman’s Ferry) the little known stallion from Pennsylvania anymore.”