Courtesy of Churchill Downs publicity team:
It wasn’t the easiest race for reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, but the Mort Fink-homebred trimmed the hedge of the turf course and found a way to win the Grade II Firecracker Handicap under the lights at Churchill Downs. Trainer Charlie LoPresti reported the 6-year-old was in good order Sunday morning at Keeneland.
“He looks really good today and he doesn’t have a scratch on him, believe it or not,” LoPresti said.
Wise Dan also overcame a 128-pound impost, a driving rainstorm and a yielding turf course to become the first two-time winner of the Firecracker.
“I watched the race a bunch last night and this morning,” LoPresti said. “It was nerve-racking with the weight spread and the way the weather played out, but we got through it. And he handled the weight spread and showed he’s truly a great horse. I just hope they don’t put too much weight on him down the road.
“I’m glad he got to run up there and the fans really cheered him on when he came back. Hopefully it was good for Churchill to have a horse like that run up there.”
LoPresti said Wise Dan will remain at Keeneland for a couple weeks and then will head to Saratoga in mid-July.
“We’re thinking about the Fourstardave (GII on turf on Aug. 10) and the Whitney (GI on dirt on Aug. 3),” LoPresti said. “We’ll see how he comes out of it and how he handles going up there. We’ll also look at the Bernard Baruch (GII on turf on Aug. 31) and the Woodward (GI on dirt on Aug. 31). There are four races up there that we’re looking at with this horse.
“I’d really like to keep him undefeated and I’d like to win a Grade I on dirt with him this year. If we get a Grade I on dirt with him and then keep him going and get a few wins on the grass and then get to the Breeders’ Cup, maybe he’ll get Horse of the Year again.”
Wise Dan’s win in the Firecracker was his seventh consecutive victory and the 16th of 23 career starts. He has earned $4,164,070.
Wise Dan’s older half-brother Successful Dan, most recently fourth in the Stephen Foster Handicap, also will make the trip to Saratoga with LoPresti.
“Successful Dan is going with us too and we’ll train him accordingly,” LoPresti said. “We’ll look at the Whitney and the Woodward with him, as well.”