WOODBINE MILE STAKES | PURSE: $1 MILLION | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 MILE (TURF)
Wise Dan has earned his way into the Breeders' Cup Mile this fall and would likely be the favorites after his smashing win as the 1-2 choice in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Sept. 16 on the Woodbine grass course.
With John Velazquez aboard in the $1,031,168 event, Wise Dan exploited an opening between horses coming off the turn and drew off through the long Woodbine stretch to win impressively by 3 1/4 lengths. Wise Dan became the lowest-priced winner of the Woodbine Mile, returning $3.10 for the victory .
Wise Dan's victory gave trainer Charles Lopresti consecutive wins in the Woodbine Mile following Turallure, who posted a 6-1 upset last year. Lopresti trains Wise Dan for Morton Fink, who assured viewers on TVG that his Kentucky homebred would be heading to Santa Anita Park Nov. 3 for the BC Mile.
The Woodbine Mile was a Breeders' Cup Challenge race with Fink earning an automatic expense-paid trip to the championship event with his highly-regarded 5-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding.
"We'll be there," he assured viewers before rushing off to the winner's circle.
However, his connections haven't officially ruled out a run in the Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles on the dirt.
"Mr. Fink and I will talk about and we'll talk to Johnny [jockey Velazquez] about it," explained Lopresti after becoming the first conditioner to win back-to-back renewals of the Woodbine Mile. "I said something to Johnny about the Classic and he said, 'The grass is good, but we won't rule the other one out [Breeders' Cup Classic] as well.' We will see how he comes out and take it from there. I think he is better on synthetic and turf. I honestly do."
The final time was 1:34.07 over a turf course upgraded to firm before the race.
Hunters Bay, making his initial start on turf, ran second, with European invader Cityscape, the 3-1 second choice, finishing third.
Wise Dan came into the race off a five-length tally in the one-mile Fourstardave Handicap Aug. 11, earning a 109 Beyer Speed Figure over a yielding inner turf layout at Saratoga Race Course. The versatile gelding is now three-for-four on the grass, all at the mile distance. Wise Dan earned his second Grade 1 victory following a win the Clark Handicap on the dirt at Churchill Downs last November.
The victory was worth $617,220, boosting Wise Dan's career earnings to more than $2 million.
Velazquez had Wise Dan ideally spotted along the inside early, tracking the leaders Worthadd and 107-1 Artic Fern with Dubai Duty Free winner Cityscape also stalking forwardly. The favorite bided his time as Worthadd and Artic Fern vied through reasonable quarter mile fractions of :23.78 and :46.90. Wise Dan drew closer rounding the bend, found an opening between the leaders, and went to the front. He took a one-length lead at the head of the lane after they had completed six furlongs in 1:10.38.
Worthadd tried to cling to the new leader but tired as Wise Dan opened up by two lengths at mid-stretch. Cityscape, up on the outside, appeared to have a chance but evened out in the drive for James Doyle. The rallying Hunters Bay, ridden toward the inside of Cityscape by Emma-Jaye Wilson, closed in the final furlong to take over second while no threat to the winner. Wise Dan, in complete control, finished up with Velazquez merely showing him the whip.
"What a nice horse," said an enthused Velazquez after winning his third Woodbine Mile. "For a horse to do this race after race and come back the way he does things is incredible. It's nice to be on him. He's allowing me to get him back a little bit and get him relaxed behind the horses. When he does that, he is a much better horse. Today, he broke out of there nice. When those two horses went, he actually relaxed really, really well behind them."
Velazquez compared Wise Dan favorably to Leroidesanimaux , whom he rode to victory in the 2005 Woodbine MIle. "They're both freaks!" he said.
The jockey's other win in the Woodbine Mile came aboard Riviera in 2000.
Hunters Bay finished one length better than Cityscape with Riding the River charging belatedly from last in the nine-horse field to be fourth. Dance And Dance, Big Band Sound, Worthadd, Hollinger, and Artic Fern followed.
Wise Dan, who is out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, has now banked $2,011,638 while winning 11 of 18 lifetime starts. He paid $3.10, $2.70, and $2.10 across the board while carrying 121 pounds, three fewer than the top-weighted Cityscape.
"Yes, he is an unbelievable horse," said Fink. "After 40 years of trying, it's an incredible feeling. I think he is good on anything as he's proved, but I think he is a little better on the grass. But you can't turn down a Classic. There are no superstars, I don't think, around this year."
Hunters Bay tried grass for the first time after winning three races in a row earlier this year over Woodbine's Polytrack, including a pair of Grade 3 events for trainer Read Baker. The Stronach Stables-owned son of Ghostzapper acquitted himself well while second best, returning $6.30 and $4.40. The exacta paid $27.30.
"I could see Johnny V sitting so quiet on Wise Dan. I thought we'd have a hard time to catch him, but he gave it everything he could," said Wilson of runner-up Hunters Bay. "But he did what I thought he would. He handled it [the turf] and he ran like a true champ."
Juddmonte's 6-year-old Cityscape, second last time out in the Prix Jacques la Marois at Deauville Aug. 12, paid $2.90 to show while rounding out a $131 trifecta for a $2 bet.