If Wise Dan follows his usual path to the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) then a showdown against the brilliant dirt horse Goldencents in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland Oct. 4 looks close to a sure thing, pitting the defending Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) winner against the defending Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner.
The decision by trainer Doug O'Neill and W. C. Racing, managed by Glenn Sorgenstein, to head to Keeneland to face the reigning two-time Horse of the Year and turf male champion, despite never having run on grass, will be perceived as an unorthodox way of getting to the Breeders' Cup.
But it could turn out to be an inspired move, allowing the connections of Goldencents—winner of the Aug. 24 Pat O'Brien Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar—to choose between attempting an unprecedented Breeders' Cup dirt and grass mile double, or using the established grass-to-dirt angle to attempt back-to-back victories in the Dirt Mile.
"Doug doesn't think he will have a problem with the turf," Sorgenstein said. "He's run well on dirt and synthetic and Doug feels he can run equally as well on any surface. We know what he can do on the dirt and especially at Santa Anita. Doug and I spoke at length and our mindset is that his ideal distance is a mile. Unfortunately, there are no big prep races at a mile. We've always been curious about the turf, and this is a million-dollar purse. He's going to retire to Spendthrift Farm at the end of the year and we want to have as much fun with him until then as we can. That's what this game is all about.
"Wise Dan is one of the greatest of all time, but if there is a chance to beat him, this will be it, with him coming off colic surgery and a lack of racing. This will give us options going into the Breeders' Cup. Even though (Goldencents) is tried and tested on dirt, it's sure a nice feeling going in that you have the option of staying on grass or going back to the dirt. The Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT) will tell us a lot about Wise Dan. If the Shadwell Turf Mile turns out to be a prep for the Dirt Mile, that's fine."
Goldencents has taken his connections on quite a ride beginning when shipped east as a 2-year-old off one 5 1/2-furlong maiden win to finish second in the one-mile Foxwoods Champagne Stakes (gr. I). At 3, he captured the Sham Stakes (gr. III) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) before turning in poor efforts in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I)
His attention then turned to sprints and he ran his heart out against older horses, finishing a close second in three straight graded stakes—the Bing Crosby (gr. I) and Pat O'Brien (gr. II) on Del Mar's Polytrack and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (gr. I) on dirt. Then came his dominating wire-to-wire victory in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile before a disappointing effort in the Cigar Mile (gr. I).
This year, he came off a 6 1/2-month layoff to finish second in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), and then was second again in the Bing Crosby. In the Pat O'Brien, he shot to the lead, as he did in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and never looked back.
Goldencents is by Into Mischief , who stands at Spendthrift, out of Golden Works, by Banker's Gold.