BEN ALI STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILES
Successful Dan, coming back off a layoff of nearly 10 months, dictated an easy pace and held off the pursuing Boisterous in the final furlong to post a one-length victory in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes April 21 at Keeneland.
The winner is the older half brother to 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who won last year's Ben Ali in a track record 1:46.63 for 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack. Charlie LoPresti trains both horses for owner/breeder Morton Fink.
Seven-year-old Successful Dan, limited to 12 lifetime starts in his career by recurring ligament troubles, improved his record at Keeneland to a perfect five-for-five. The victory was the eighth overall for the Kentucky-bred son of Successful Appeal out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, 4-5 favorite Successful Dan set dawdling fractions (:25.03, :50.18, 1:16.05) en route to a slow winning time of 1:51.14.
"He has tremendous heart. He's got a lot of talent, and his injuries here lately haven't been very bad," LoPresti explained. "It wasn't that hard to get him back to this race. Julien has breezed him these past two times, and he's told me he was as good as ever. And Dr. Larry Bramlage checked him and gave him a clean bill of health."
The big, bay gelding had not raced since June 30, when he ran second to Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned in the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows.
Leaving from the rail, Successful Dan took the early lead from Son of a General, who stayed close for the opening quarter mile. Successful Dan would take command after that, leading by about two lengths.
Successful Dan left Son of a General in his wake rounding the final turn as Boisterous, stalking on the outside for Joel Rosario, took up the chase from fourth. Successful Dan had a big advantage at the top of the lane and maintained a two-length edge to mid-stretch. After receiving some encouragement from Leparoux Successful Dan held sway in measured fashion as Boisterous, the 2-1 second choice, attempted in vain to close the gap.
"I've just got so much confidence in him," Leparoux said. "I just let him run his race. They let me go very slow the first part of it, and I knew at that rate nobody could catch him."
Boisterous was 6 1/4 lengths clear of Southern California invader Richard's Kid, third with Rosie Napravnik aboard.
Successful Dan, who missed the entire 2011 season with his suspensory injury, had posted a strong series of works for the Ben Ali. He now has five graded stakes victories to his credit and overall earnings of $746,608.
LoPresti said Successful Dan could possibly come back in the Stephen Foster Handicap June 15 at Churchill Downs. It could mean a redirection for Wise Dan. LoPresti is also considering Wise Dan for the Foster after his victory earlier in the Keeneland meet in the Maker's 46 Mile.
"He loves Churchill. We'll see how he is after this race," LoPresti said of Successful Dan. "We might have to rethink what we do with Wise Dan. If not that, we might just freshen [Successful Dan] and take him to Saratoga."
Successful Dan carried 118 pounds, five fewer than the runner-up, and paid $3.60, $2.40, $2.10. Phipps Stable's multiple graded stakes winner Boisterous, making his first appearance of the year for trainer Shug McGaughey, returned $3 and $2.10 and was part of an exacta worth $8. Richard's Kid paid $2.60 to show.
Son of a General, Hattaash, and Stephanoatsee completed the order. Golden Ticket scratched.