Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Dan & Groupie: 2 Champs in One Day

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 8, 2013

Wise Dan Wise Dan has been the picture of perfection this year and has left little doubt that he is the deserving Horse of the Year, Champion Older Male and Champion Male Turf Horse. After Curlin became the first horse to win back-to-back Horse of the Year titles since Cigar in 1995-96 we were treated to the extraordinary historical feat of three consecutive power-house females taking home America’s top prize. Now America’s reigning Horse of the Year title is once again resting on the muscular shoulders of an alpha male among the nation’s best and fastest.

In three starts this year Wise Dan has ruled his roost, adding the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile, Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap to his impressive resume of wins. Now he returns to Saratoga on Saturday to attempt a repeat of his 2012 victory in the Fourstardave Handicap (Gr.2), a move that has sparked controversy due to the Grade 2 status of the race and Wise Dan’s status as defending Horse of the Year.

I personally don’t have a problem with his placement in the Fourstardave or with the fact that it’s a Grade 2 race. The race is 1 mile long, it’s run on the turf and it’s a race that Wise Dan has already won. Those are three very good things in his favor. You can’t blame his connections for placing him in a spot where he did so well last year, plus it set him up for three straight Grade 1 wins to finish out his 2012 campaign. It’s not the toughest spot to run and it’s not a Grade 1 race, but I honestly don’t have a problem with seeing the Horse of the Year running in his second consecutive Grade 2 race when we know that there are more Grade 1’s down the road where he will have a chance to face the best and defend his Horse of the Year title. By this time last year he had won a Grade 3, finished 2nd in a Grade 1 and was about to win the Grade 2 Fourstardave. This year he has won two Grade 1’s, a Grade 2 and is back to defend his Fourstardave Handicap victory, so by my estimation he’s run in tougher spots more often this year than he did at this point last year.

Two weeks ago Wise Dan turned in one of the best workouts of the Saratoga meet, blazing five furlongs in :57.38. The chestnut gelding most recently breezed an easy four furlongs in :49.59 so I think it’s safe to say he appears ready to bring his “A” game to the track once again. Last weekend we were treated to a very impressive performance by Cross Traffic to capture the Whitney Invitational Handicap (Gr.1) in front-running fashion and just two weekends ago Belmont Stakes champ Palace Malice returned to win the Jim Dandy Stakes (Gr.2) in the 2nd fastest running time since the race was changed to its current 1 1/8 mile distance 50 years ago. Now it’s Wise Dan’s turn to once again conquer the “Graveyard of Champions” and make grand old Saratoga come alive.

I can’t sign off without mentioning that Champion Female Sprinter Groupie Doll is finally making her long-awaited 2013 debut in the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park on Saturday. She absolutely towers over this field of 11 other fillies and mares and enters off two straight bullet works. If she’s ever going to be vulnerable now is the time, but I think her recent works prove that she is ready to run good enough to return to the winners circle.


14 Responses to “Dan & Groupie: 2 Champs in One Day”

  1. Jason B. said

    I’m a huge Wise Dan fan. I don’t like the fact that he’s in a Grade 2, but I’d much rather see him defend his Fourstardave than skip it and wait for something else.

  2. Arthur Mason said

    Lopresti could have waited the 1 1/2 mile Sword Dancer Invitational on the 17th. That would have been a great challenge and it would have given him an opportunity to show a new dimension to Wise Dan. The Fourstardave is a nice race for sure, but it’s not much of a challenge for Wise Dan, I’d like to see something “out of the box” from him.

    • Hi Arthur, nice to see a new commenter! 🙂
      I know what you’re saying, but I think Lopresti is looking farther down the road and trying to follow a similar pattern of success that worked for Wise Dan last year. I do agree however that it would be really neat to see him try a longer distance. If he was able to succeed at 1 1/2 miles that would really show off his versatility.

  3. Jane J. said

    Great article Brian, you write very well and I totally agree with you. I’m not one to second guess connections that have piloted this horse to a Triple-Chamionship year in 2012.

    P.S. I’m very excited about Groupie Doll returning as well!

    • Thank you very much Jane, it’s always nice to hear that 🙂
      I’m very excited about Groupie Doll returning also. She was a monster last year and I can only hope that she’s still got that incredible spirit and kick.

  4. David said

    I think Wise Dan is a great horse, but I think his owner and trainer are letting people down running in a second Grade 2 race after already having run in one last time. He’s not facing good competition and there’s no challenge. I still like the horse but it would be nice to see more of a challenge.

    • Hi David, I know exactly what you’re saying, I’ve said the same thing for multiple horses over the years. This time I just feel that Wise Dan has proven himself and does need to be pushed too far outside his limits right now. He’s a 3-time 2012 champion and he’s already shown how versatile he is last year on dual surfaces, I don’t see the problem with his connections keeping him in a spot that served him so well last year, it is their job to make sure he can win after all. I’m sure the Breeders’ Cup and a prep or two before will give him some tougher competition.

  5. Mike B. said

    I’m not crazy about the Grade 2 race again, but it’s cool he’s defending his victory from last year…I don’t really have a big problem with it. Like Brian said, he’ll have bigger and better challenges down the road to prove himself again.

  6. mattdinney said

    Great article Brian and good points!
    I’m not crazy about putting a horse like Wise Dan in this type of race but if it means getting a prep for future big races down the road, it’s more acceptable. Plus, there aren’t any Grade 1’s at a mile on the turf right now and we all know that’s his best surface and distance.
    Could he have tried the Arlington Million? Sure. The Sword Dancer? Yes, that too. But if the connections don’t feel he would be good in those races, why would you try when it’s just a waste of a race…and a HARD race at that. HOWEVER, I will say if they want to defend their Horse of the Year title, the fact he went into two straight Grade II’s may hurt his chances a little. There are plenty of people that aren’t happy about it and I tend to agree with David’s comments. PLUS, in my opinion, 129 pounds for a horse like Wise Dan is manageable and he should win anyway. Horses in Europe carry weight in the 130’s against BETTER competition and they thrive! But with all this said, he’s still a fantastic racehorse and a champion.

    • Thanks Matt, nice to hear from you again!
      I agree that running in another Grade 2 could count against him, but I feel that with his two Grade 1 wins earlier in the year that he’s still in good standing to defend his Horse of the Year title. If Fort Larned had won the Whitney convincingly he might have been in a position to seriously challenge for Horse of the Year and Older Male with another Breeders’ Cup win, but right now I think Wise Dan is sitting pretty…hopefully he wins big today and moves on to some tougher races because I’d love to see him challenged as you and David mentioned. The weight is always an interesting subject to me because of how much significance we put on it here in America as opposed to places like England, France or Australia. Zenyatta and Curlin both carried higher weights during their final campaigns and I think it would take more than 129lbs to knock Wise Dan off his game today.

      Good luck with the races this weekend and thanks for stopping by to comment!

      • mattdinney said

        Well, he definitely ran his race. He isn’t flashy about winning but he just gets the job doesn’t he?! Great effort from him again.
        And quite honestly, I still can’t make up my mind on what I think of weights LOL. Horses are very strong animals and some believe a 5 pound difference is nothing for a 1,200 pound animal. Others believe it’s huge. However, I think that if a horse is clearly the best in a race, like Wise Dan, than carrying 10 pounds more isn’t a huge deal and we overemphasize the weights.

      • He’s like a machine when he wins, efficient and just enough to get the job done…but he ran another great time, came close to the course record. I agree with you about the weights, it won’t make that much of a difference if the horse is really good, especially with the weights that are assigned in this day and age.

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