FOURSTARDAVE H. | PURSE: $500,000 | THREE YEAR OLDS AND UP | ONE-MILE (INNER TURF)
Jockey John Velazquez kept Wise Dan on the rail throughout Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, and the pair exploded in the stretch of the boggy turf feature to pull away for the five-length victory. The Morton Fink homebred was the heavy 3-2 favorite for trainer Charles Lopresti, and returned $5, $3.30 and $2.40 to his many backers.
"I guess the soft turf didn't bother him!" Lopresti stated. "It's always (a concern) when he's never run on soft turf like that. I was a little concerned, but Johnny (Velazquez) said he wasn't a bit worried. When I saw him down on the inside, backing up a little bit, I thought, 'Oh, boy.' But Johnny said he had so much horse he could have pulled the trigger any time. He's really confident in the horse. He's done a great job with him. It worked out great.
"I wasn't worried if it came off the turf, because he likes the mud," Lopresti added. "He's just a neat horse. He loves to run. I've been around a lot of nice horses, but he's just a really nice horse."
Surfrider gunned to the front when the gates opened, but Get Stormy had taken over by the time the first quarter was reached in :23 4/5. Wise Dan and Velazquez patiently bided their time in third while keeping in contact with the front runners through splits :48 3/5 and 1:13 1/5. Get Stormy still had the lead entering the turn, but allowed a spot to open up to his inside when hitting the lane.
Velazquez was waiting for that hole and urged Wise Dan on through. It took a few strides but the gelding soon bounded clear. The five-year-old son of Wiseman's Ferry easily drew off despite the water-logged, yielding inner turf course to finish up a mile in 1:37 1/5.
"I think he's incredible. For him to (win) on dirt, Polytrack, and grass -- soft turf -- I am very impressed with him," Velazquez praised his mount. "He's never been on (soft ground). (Trainer Charles Lopresti) always had that in the back of his head -- is he going to handle it? I guess he handled it today. He has done everything so well.
"Whatever Mr. Lopresti decides to do with him, I am going with him. This horse is doing incredible. I was not surprised with the way he ran in the stretch. He was going so well. As soon as I let his head go, he responded really well and took off.
"I am very excited to have (Wise Dan) here," Velazquez said when asked about retaining the mount after being sidelined with a broken collarbone. "Actually, I didn't know if (the trainer) was going to bring him here until after the spill (on June 16). He told (agent) Angel (Cordero), 'No matter what happens, John can ride him. The first time I bring him back, I'm going to send the horse to him.' I am really lucky and really blessed he said that."
"It's ironic. I come here to win the race (named for Fourstardave), who (my father-in-law) Leo O'Brien trained and won many races with. It stays in the family," the rider added.
Corporate Jungle was a nice winner of the Grade 3 Appleton Stakes and Elkwood Stakes earlier this season, and entered the Fourstardave off a close fifth in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. The dark bay four-year-old kicked it into gear in the stretch to suddenly draw even and then pass Get Stormy, but the Giant's Causeway colt couldn't keep pace with Wise Dan.
"I'm very proud of this horse, and the horse that won was a really good horse," said Chad Brown, who conditions Corporate Jungle. "The winner got a great slot when Get Stormy came off the rail. My horse is in peak condition. We lost ground on the turn, but I think it was a good move by (jockey) Javier (Castellano) to get the jump on the (winner Wise Dan) and hope he'd get bottled up inside. But I think my horse is good enough to win a Grade 1. We live to fight another day. He's a work in progress."
Wise Dan could head to Woodbine for his next start on turf or stay at Saratoga for the main-track Woodward (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
"I had a beautiful trip," Castellano said. "I know the winner was much the best horse, and he had a dream trip. At the same time I tried to get the jump on the winner but the winner had the rail open up and he took off. I think he was the best horse in the race, but I am not disappointed in my horse. He showed up and ran a great race."
Corporate Jungle had two lengths to spare on Get Stormy, and it was another 3 1/4 lengths back to Guys Reward, who completed the superfecta. Upgrade, Yield Bogey and Surfrider completed the order under the wire after Data Link, Right One and main-track only entrant Crossbow were all scratched.
Wise Dan captured the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs last year in his first try over a turf course, and would also be fourth by only 1 3/4 lengths in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Those were his only two forays on grass prior to Saturday, and he entered the Fourstardave off a head second in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 16 under the Twin Spires.
"Now, I have a lot of options," Lopresti said. "I know he likes this dirt track now. So maybe, 10 days, we may breeze him over it, and maybe (look at the) Woodward (on September 3 over Saratoga's main track) or the (Grade 1) Woodbine Mile (on the turf at Woodbine September 16).
"He ran a great race in the Stephen Foster; just got beat a head, no disgrace. I think if he can win a Grade 1 on the dirt, people will start to recognize this horse as one of the top horses on the East Coast. Not too many horses can win on synthetic, grass, and a Grade 1 on the dirt. We'll let the horse tell us."
Wise Dan got a late start to 2012 but posted a 10 1/2-length romp in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes on April 22. He closed out his four-year-old campaign with easy wins in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and Grade 2 Fayette Stakes, and also captured the Presque Isle Mile Stakes last season. The Kentucky-bred chestnut opened his stakes account in his black-type bow with a half-length score in the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes in 2010, and now boasts a 10-1-0 mark from 17 career starts to go along with $1,394,418 in lifetime earnings.
Wise Dan is out of the winning Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, making him a half-brother to dual Grade 2 victor Successful Dan. Another half-sibling, stakes winner Our Royal Dancer, is herself the dam of Argentinean Group 2-placed Bailando Voy.
Lisa Danielle is herself a half-sister to Grade 1-placed Carsona, who has produced Grade 2 scorer Siphon City and Grade 3-placed Bronx City Girl. This is the family of German Group 1-winning highweight Scalo, and further back, French champion, classic winner and noted sire *Val de Loir as well as dual classic heroine and Irish champion *Valoris II.