Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan came out of Saturday night’s victory in the $150,000 Firecracker Handicap (G2) “without a scratch” and has a Grade 1 dirt race in his future according to his trainer Charles LoPresti.
“I’d really like to keep him undefeated and I’d like to win a Grade 1 on dirt with him this year,” LoPresti said. “If we get a Grade 1 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.”
The six-year-old gelding will settle in at Keeneland for a couple of weeks and then will be headed to Saratoga for the summer. LoPresti mentioned four races as possible spots to run. On turf it would be the $500,000 Fourstardave (G2) on Aug. 10 and the $250,000 Bernard Baruch on Aug. 31.
On dirt the possible races would be the $750,000 Whitney (G1) on Aug. 3 and the $750,000 Woodward (G1) on Aug. 31.
Some questioned him going in a Grade 2 with just a $150,000 purse on Saturday night, but LoPresti mentioned before the race that the Firecracker fit his schedule and would set the gelding up nicely for a summer/fall campaign.
A winner of over $4 million going into the race, the gelding probably worked harder to earn $104,439 that he has in years.
First he was saddled with weight of 128 pounds, spotting his four rivals from 11 to 15 pounds. A rainstorm left the turf course with more give to it than he usually likes, and LoPresti said he was one more downpour away from scratching him.
For much of the trip the gelding was bottled up along the inside tracking a moderate pace over the yielding going. Jockey John Velazquez then found a small seam along the hedge a the top of the stretch, squeezing him through while brushing with rival Seruni and then the hedge, and then managed to get clear inside the final furlong.
There was one last bobble as the gelding did not seem to handle the turf very well late, with the margin of victory two lengths over second choice Lea.
He earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure, down a bit over his average of 105.8 over his previous six wins, all on turf. The slow early pace and the yielding turf may have contributed to a figure that came up on the light side.
By comparison, Obviously earned a 106 for his victory in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Hollywood Park
Wise Dan Wins Firecracker Handicap
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