Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Posts Tagged ‘Fourstardave Handicap’

Critiquing Wise Dan

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 13, 2013

Wise Dan There were plenty of detractors eager to criticize owner Morton Fink and trainer Charlie LoPresti decision to have Wise Dan defend his title in the Fourstardave Handicap last week, mainly because it was a race run at Wise Dan’s preferred distance of 1 mile on the turf and it would be the second consecutive Grade 2 race for the defending Horse of the Year. They say a good horse does his own talking on the track and that’s exactly what Wise Dan did, winning his 8th consecutive graded stakes race and 2nd consecutive Fourstardave Handicap (Gr.2) while missing the course record at Saratoga by just 3/5 of a second. Still, the critics remain and it seems that his win has created even more hoopla over his current campaign course than before.

From what I can gather it seems the storm began brewing almost immediately after Fink announced that they would not be pointing the 3-time champion towards the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr.1), but will instead attempt to defend his Breeders’ Cup Mile (Gr.1) win from last year. “I don’t care what anybody says”, Fink said, further stating that he doesn’t care “at all” about winning Horse of the Year again. It seems that Fink is bound and determined to keep his striking chestnut gelding on the turf and at his preferred distance of one mile. I’ve heard my share of criticism from fans about this decision and the decision to run in the Fourstardave Handicap, but I found it very ironic when I read an article this morning by Sam Walker of the Racing Post, brought to my attention by a Facebook status from The Paulick Report.

In his article Walker brings up some relevant points about fans wanting to see Wise Dan run outside of his comfort zone by trying some of the nation’s premier dirt races, but I think he goes a little too far in his criticism of American Turf racing, calling it “second tier” and claiming that “it doesn’t take a great horse to excel in that division”. He goes on to state that “the situation is nothing like being the best miler in Europe or the best sprinter in Australia”, even insinuating that American turf runners carry no global significance. I agree with Walker that American turf racing does not carry the same status or hold the same stature as that of European or Australian racing in general, but when he says that being “the best turf horse in American is like being the best harness, quarter horse or show pony” he has gone too far. I’m sure he has plenty of pride in the fine racing of his beloved Europe, but to claim our turf racing cannot stand toe-to-toe with some of the world’s greatest turf races is absurd. The Arlington Million, Breeders’ Cup Turf, Mile and many others proves that fact. I find his article insulting and somewhat naïve. The article is mainly written as a piece to state that Wise Dan is good enough to run well and defend his Horse of the Year title on dirt, but it was tough seeing past the insults for me to enjoy the rest.

Yes, Wise Dan hasn’t faced the toughest competition this year, and his connections are steadfast in their opinion that their champion should remain on the turf and preferably race at the one mile distance, but I still think there is an element of duplicity to Mr. Walker’s words, after all the great Frankel ran in 7 straight mile races without so much as a disparaging remark from Walker. I’m not making a comparison between Wise Dan and Frankel, just stating the obvious: both horses love the 1 mile distance on the turf and both were allowed to remain in their comfort zone during championship seasons. Frankel raced those 7 time over the course of just over 14 months, Wise Dan in 12 months. Frankel certainly faced stiffer competition and remained in Grade 1 company, but I think it’s important to note that his greatness was not diminished by racing in those 7 races, it was enhanced. It would be great to see Wise Dan challenged with an outside-the-box dirt race like the Jockey Club Gold Cup or the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but if Fink and LoPresti keep him on the grass at a mile I think it’s best to just try and enjoy his campaign while he’s still with us.

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Posted in Charlie LoPresti, Fourstardave Handicap, Frankel, Morton Fink, Saratoga Racetrack, Shadwell Turf Mile, Wise Dan | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

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.

Posted in Fourstardave Handicap, Gardenia Stakes, Groupie Doll, Wise Dan | Tagged: , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

 
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