On a rain-soaked morning Tuesday at Keeneland, trainer Charlie Lopresti delivered a piece of news sure to brighten the day of officials and track patrons when he confirmed that he would enter multiple Grade I winner Wise Dan in Saturday’s Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile — the headline event of Keeneland’s opening weekend of its fall meet.
A graded stakes winner on all three surfaces, Morton Fink’s homebred gelding is 3-for-4 lifetime on the turf, his lone loss coming when he ran fourth in last year’s edition of the Shadwell. Wise Dan is a much more formidable presence on the grass this season, however, winning the Grade II Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 11 and taking the Grade I Woodbine Mile with ease in his last time out on Sept. 16.
“I’m 90 percent sure we’re going to run him,” Lopresti said. “I’ve always talked about running there. It’s right across the street in our own back yard, and he’s got four weeks from that race to the Breeders’ Cup, … and look at what he did last year. He ran opening weekend in the Shadwell, came back during the last weekend and ran in the Fayette, won that and won the (Grade I) Clark (at Churchill) three weeks later.”
Lopresti had been debating between starting the 5-year-old Wiseman’s Ferry gelding in the $750,000 Shadwell or training him for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita in early November. Lopresti conceded that choosing the Shadwell is somewhat risky should Wise Dan get beat or have more taken out of him,but the way the chestnut star threw down a half-mile work in :47.40 on Friday convinced Lopresti that he would rather run a dead-fit horse than take the chance of drilling on him for the next month.
“If he runs in Shadwell and comes out good, we’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup,” Lopresti said. “If it knocks him out, then we’ll go in the Clark Handicap. But after watching him work and watching the way he’s training, every time that horse works, it’s like a race. It’s phenomenal how fast he works. So rather than do that, I’m thinking this would be like a good workout for him. But I want him to win. He’s really good right now, and it doesn’t make any sense not to lead him across here.
“Why risk working him when I can run him?”
Jockey Jose Lezcano is scheduled to be aboard Wise Dan on Saturday because the gelding’s regular rider, John Velazquez, has a commitment to ride in New York that day.
Besides emphasizing Wise Dan’s current form, Lopresti strongly reiterated that the Breeders’ Cup — either the Mile or the Classic — is the main objective and the Clark, where he is the defending race winner, would be a Plan B should something go awry.
“If he was either knocked out or didn’t run good, then at least we might consider the Clark, but the ultimate goal is the Breeders’ Cup,” Lopresti said. “Whether it’s the Classic or the grass, I can’t tell you. I listened to those guys on HRTV, and Gary Stevens said he thinks he’s the best horse in the country and can win either of those races. But I’m not worried about the horses I would run against. I’m worried about East Coast-to-West Coast scenario. East Coast horses historically don’t go West and win those Breeders’ Cup races.”
The Shadwell Turf Mile should have the strongest lineup of Keeneland’s opening weekend, with Grade I winner Data Link and graded stakes winners Silver Max, Dominus and Doubles Partner expected to be among the entries when the race is drawn Wednesday.