LOUISVILLE – Champion female sprinter Groupie Doll and reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan enthused their connections regarding their Breeders’ Cup readiness with each throwing down impressive moves at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, respectively, Friday morning.
One day after having a planned work over the turf course nixed due to rain, Wise Dan emerged on his own at 7 o’clock to work a half mile over the Keeneland Polytrack. With exercise rider Damien Rock at the helm, the 6-year-old Wiseman’s Ferry gelding covered four furlongs in :47.40, clocking his first quarter-mile in :23.60 and galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.
“Pretty awesome – :11s and :12s all the way,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said of the eight-mile splits. “I was a little concerned the turf might be a little soft. The Polytrack is consistent and a little better when it has some moisture in it. He doesn’t have to train on the turf. He didn’t last year. I knew I had a good track on the Polytrack.”
Wise Dan will head to the Breeders’ Cup as the defending race winner and likely favorite again for the $2 million Mile. Unlike a year ago, Morton Fink’s homebred is having to rebound off a rare defeat, having had his nine-race win streak snapped when he finished second to Silver Max in an off-the-turf edition of the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on October 5.
LoPresti only worked the chestnut gelding once between the Shadwell and Breeders’ Cup last year, however, and he’s not going to let one defeat alter that formula. Friday’s move will serve as Wise Dan’s lone serious work and he is slated to ship to Santa Anita on October 29.
“I might jog him in the morning on the training track to see how he came out of the work,” LoPresti said. “He is just as good as last year.”
Groupie Doll, the defending champion of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, will also be attempting a repeat triumph off an upset loss. The 5-year-old daughter of Bowman’s Band finished third in the Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland on October 5 – a race she won by 6 1/2-lengths in 2012 – but looked every bit the powerhouse as she rolled through a four-furlong move in a bullet 46:40 over the Churchill main track.
Coming onto the track just after the renovation break, Groupie Doll dragged exercise rider Jada Schlenk to the half mile pole and proceeded to clock splits of 11 3/5, 22 4/5, 34 3/5, 46 2/5 with a gallop out in 1:00 and 1:14.
“I told Jada to let her work along today, that this is the big one,” trainer and co-owner/breeder Buff Bradley said. “I can see what’s on my watch and seeing her visually but the main word comes from Jada, that’s why I like her working her because I know exactly where we stand. She said she felt great, she was ready to work today so it was good to see her that eager and ready to go.”
Though Groupie Doll has lost two of her three starts this season, Bradley isn’t buying into the notion his champion homebred may be a step slower in 2013.
“I still think from this time last year she’s better than she was,” he said. “I still think she is. I’m here everyday and see her. Mentally I know she’s better, physically she looks bigger and stronger. If we run the same race (in the Breeders’ Cup) we did last year, we’ll win again.”
Groupie Doll is scheduled to ship to Santa Anita on October 22.
Travers winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic contender Will Take Charge was also on the worktab at Churchill on Friday, going out in the early morning darkness for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
The long-striding son of Unbridled’s Song covered six furlongs in 1:14.40 and is scheduled to ship to Santa Anita this coming Tuesday along with the rest of the Lukas contingent.
“I was real pleased on that one. I thought we got exactly pretty much what we needed but we didn’t shake the trees,” said Lukas, who also worked Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender Fast Bullet five furlongs in 1:01.20. “He was real good through the last quarter. Mentally, he is so much better. He’s had so many races (nine starts in 2013) yet he is improving and this Fall I think he has really improved a lot. His coordination has improved for sure.”
Will Take Charge put together back-to-back wins for the first time in his career when he followed up his Travers victory with a 2 1/4-length win over Travers runner-up Moreno in the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby September 21. Moreno’s trainer, Eric Guillot, had alleged that jockey Luis Saez has used a buzzer on Will Take Charge in the Travers but the New York State Gaming Commission cleared Saez earlier this month when it announced the was no evidence to support the claim.
“I think somebody told (Guillot) to cool it and shut up a little bit,” said Lukas, who added he still has yet to receive an apology. “Either his owner or some lawyer must have said ‘You better shut up because if you keep going on with those derogatory remarks you’re going to have a hell of a lawsuit’.”