Trainer Charlie LoPresti says he’s in a bad spot. But really, it’s among the most enviable positions one could ask for as a horseman.
He’s got his two top runners both ready to jump out of their skin and race. But since they share common bloodlines and ownership, he doesn’t want the half brothers to have to clash unless circumstances deem it necessary.
Since reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan already has a mantle full of Grade I trophies, LoPresti is trying to perfect a juggling act that would allow the 6-year-old gelding’s older sibling to build up a resume as strong as his form suggests he is.
In an effort to keep Wise Dan and his 7-year-old half brother Successful Dan from facing one another, LoPresti said from his Keeneland base Thursday he is considering pointing the three-time Eclipse Award winner to the Grade II Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 29 while keeping Successful Dan aimed at the Grade I Stephen Foster over the main track on June 15.
The $150,000-added Firecracker marked the first career turf start for Wise Dan when he won the one-mile test back in 2011. Morton Fink’s homebred Wiseman’s Ferry gelding has famously gone on to become one of the great grass runners in the world, having won five straight Grade I contests on the turf including his recent 4 3/4-length waltz in the 1 1/8-miles Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 4.
Form wise, the Firecracker wouldn’t figure to be anything but a paid workout for Wise Dan before he heads to Saratoga for the summer. Though Fink – who also owns Successful Dan – suggested they get Wise Dan ready for the Foster in case his injury-prone half brother has a setback, LoPresti doesn’t want to get his champion set to run only to have him sit in the barn for another month.
“Mr. Fink is like ‘Why don’t we start thinking about Wise Dan for the Foster in case something happens with Successful Dan’ and I said ‘That is all well and good but that’s not fair to crank that horse up and have him ready to run and have him sit the barn and do nothing and we risk getting him hurt as insurance just in case Successful Dan doesn’t go’,” LoPresti said. “But (Fink) brought up a good point in that…you’ve got 2 ½ months in between races. So he brought up running in a race at Woodbine and he brought up the Firecracker and I said I would rather go in the Firecracker. So that’s probably what we’re looking at is Wise Dan in Firecracker and Successful Dan in the Foster.
“It puts me in a bad spot because what happens if Successful Dan gets hurt…I can’t just pull Wise Dan out of the barn,” LoPresti continued. “We either have to train him for that race and if he doesn’t run, he doesn’t run. That’s not fair for him to just sit there. And I don’t want to run them against each other because what if I deny one of them? I’d rather someone else beat them than me beat them with my own horse.”
There is unfinished business in the Stephen Foster where Wise Dan is concerned as he was beat a head in that race by Ron the Greek last year, his lone loss in six starts in 2012. Successful Dan, however, has been plagued by suspensory issues throughout his career and has yet to notch a Grade I victory from his 12 career starts.
The winner of the Grade III Ben Ali Stakes in his seasonal bow at Keeneland this April, Successful Dan has crossed the wire first in all four career starts at Churchill Downs but was disqualified to third in the 2010 edition of the Grade I Clark Handicap. The Successful Appeal gelding also holds the track record for 1 1/16-miles over the main track at Churchill having covered the distance in 1:41.04 when he captured the Grade II Alysheba Stakes last May.
“Successful Dan, I think he deserves a chance. He’s never had a chance to run in any of those good races like that other than the Alysheba last year,” LoPresti said. “He never got a chance to run in the (Grade I) Whitney (last summer), he never got a chance to run in any Breeders’ Cup races because it’s always been not his time. And right now he’s good.”
Following his potential run in the Firecracker, LoPresti is planning to point Wise Dan toward the Grade II Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga in August – a contest he won last year to launch his current six-race winning streak. From there, LoPresti said he would “toy with” the idea of putting the reigning champion back on the dirt in the Grade I Woodward Stakes, though that would also be dependent on Successful Dan’s progress.
“It all hinges on what Successful Dan does too,” LoPresti said. “I would love to have the chance to go with one in the (Breeders’ Cup) Classic and one in the Mile. That would be a good thing to have, two horses in the Breeders’ Cup.”