This time last year, trainer Charlie Lopresti’s shedrow looked like his own version of murderers’ row with Grade I winners Wise Dan, Turallure, and graded stakes winner Successful Dan seemingly equally poised to battle for in-house bragging rights of who would top the other in 2012.
When injury cut short the campaigns of Turallure and Successful Dan this past summer, Wise Dan famously become a one-horse wrecking crew on behalf of his barn – destroying rivals in three consecutive Grade I turf contests including a course record-setting masterclass in the Breeders’ Cup Mile to make himself the favorite to claim Horse of the Year honors at next Saturday’s Eclipse Awards ceremony.
Following a well-earned bout of turnout at Lopresti’s Lexington farm, Wise Dan has returned his conditioner’s Keeneland base to begin the quest of trying to maintain the effortless form that defined his 5-year-old season. As he hoped would be the case last season, Lopresti is crossing his fingers that some of the Wiseman Ferry gelding’s biggest challengers for the months ahead are residing a few stall doors down.
In addition to having a likely champion in his care for 2013, Lopresti is just as grateful to have both Turallure and Successful Dan back in training for another attempt at juggling multiple divisional standouts. Successful Dan, a half brother to Wise Dan and fellow Morton Fink homebred, was sidelined in early August due to a recurrence of a ligament strain that has previously sidelined the now 7-year-old Successful Appeal gelding for 14 months.
Successful Dan’s injury came only a month after it was learned that Turallure, winner of the 2011 Grade I Woodbine Mile, would also miss the remainder of 2012 when the son of Wando was found to have bone bruising in the wake of his fourth-place finish in the Grade II Firecracker Handicap at Churchill in June.
All three of Lopresti’s big horses could make their seasonal bows during the Keeneland Spring meet he said Wednesday morning with Wise Dan targeting the Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile with Successful Dan and Turallure possibly returning in allowance races.
Brilliant as he is grass, Wise Dan is also a Grade I winner on dirt and graded stakes winner and track record holder on Polytrack – a versatility Lopresti may call upon if Turallure returns to his old turf form.
“I don’t know (about keeping Wise Dan on turf),” Lopresti said Wednesday. “Hopefully they’re going to write some allowance race for Turallure to get him started back and I imagine at some point they would have to run against each other. If Turallure comes back to the same level, it wouldn’t be fair to Turallure or (owner Donna Arnold) to put him behind. I will try to keep them apart as much as I can. If I can get an easy comeback race for him like I did for Successful Dan (last year) that’s what I would do. But we’ll see. It’s along winter and we have to get through it.”
While Successful Dan and Turallure went to the track Wednesday, Wise Dan made his trek to the round pen behind Lopresti’s Rice Road barn. Though he is currently sporting about a 100 more holiday pounds than he did when he exited the Breeders’ Cup winner’s circle, the chestnut gelding hasn’t given Lopresti any reason to think he has tapped the bottom of his well talent wise.
“I can tell you right now, we got a plane out of there (Santa Anita) at 2 in the morning after the Breeders’ Cup and that horse drug us out of his stall,” Lopresti said. “When he came out of that race, he didn’t even act like he ran. And that’s pretty scary.”
Click on the link below to see video of Wise Dan getting his roll time in inside the round pen Wednesday (note how he goes straight into a pose when he gets up. Classic.)