Morton Fink's two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan rolled off the trailer with a spring in his step May 21 at Charlie and Amy LoPresti's Forest Lane Farm near Lexington, seemingly none the worse for wear after undergoing emergency colic surgery at nearby Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital.
The six-time Eclipse Award winner was bright-eyed and on the muscle, and appears to have lost little of his conditioning despite the May 16 scare.
"I'd have thought this horse—what he's been through—he'd have lost 50 pounds," Charlie LoPresti said. "They took such good care of this horse; you couldn't imagine."
Wise Dan, who weighed 1,195 pounds before his surgery for a flipped small intestine, weighs between 1,185 and 1,190 now, having lost only 5-10 pounds.
"What happened was, basically, when they laid him down on the table and they turned him upside down to prep him, they think somewhere between the prep and when they went into surgery, that it righted itself and went back to where it needed to be," said LoPresti, who has trained the 7-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding to 10 grade I wins among his 21 victories from 29 starts overall.
"When they ultrasounded him (before surgery) they could see the inflamed area was getting larger, but when they opened him up, everything was right. They could tell where it was, but everything looked really good. As far as colic goes, it was the best case scenario; they just opened him up and sewed him back up. It was kind of like an exploratory thing."
Amy LoPresti added that Dr. Scott Hopper could see where the inflamed bowel had been, but that no resectioning was needed for the champion's intestines.
"They could see where the bowel had been scrunched up and where it had been stuck behind his spleen, and that's why they had to go in, because they could see the inflammation getting longer in the intestine," she said. "But (Dr. Hopper) said all he could guess was it got shoved up behind his spleen and when they flipped him upside down to put him on the table, it dropped right out of there."
Charlie LoPresti said Wise Dan has bounced out of surgery in remarkable condition.
"He's off all of his medications, he never spiked a temp, he never was depressed," the trainer said. "The first night we saw him (after surgery) he was a little groggy—but then the next day he was back to the old Dan, just the way you saw him, jumping around."
Wise Dan is expected to return to light training by June 6, and could be back jogging 5-6 weeks from the surgery date.
"Three weeks from the day of surgery we can start tack-walking him, and then if the incision looks good and we're happy with it, we can start jogging him in six weeks," Charlie LoPresti said. "But if he's really good, we could start in five weeks."
The champion gelding's connections have not ruled out a summer start for him despite the setback. A race like the Aug. 9 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT), which Wise Dan has won two times en route to dual victories in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT), or the Aug. 30 Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT), both at Saratoga Race Course, could be in the cards.
"The Fourstardave isn't until August, we could have him back for that, or maybe the Bernard Baruch, there's no reason why he couldn't run in that; that's not even a handicap," Charlie LoPresti said. "He could run there or he could run in the Woodbine race, just depending on him. If he has any setbacks or he colics again, then we're really in trouble, but hopefully he won't do that. You see the way he is now, he hasn't lost much conditioning.
"Mr Fink has already talked about we're going to definitely take him to Saratoga if everything goes good; we've already talked about it because we're dead in the water with Keeneland. We don't have a (main) racetrack there until August 15 (due to track surface renovations)."
Wise Dan, already a two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), is not in jeopardy of missing a third engagement in the season-end series as long as his recovery continues according to plan.
"In a perfect world, let's just say he's jogging by the 21st of June, probably by the first of July sometime he'd be starting to gallop, depending on how he does and everything," his trainer said. "He'd have a breeze the middle to the end of July, if everything goes right. Then there's a chance he could run in August at Saratoga.
"If he ran in the Bernard Baruch it would be very hard to make the Woodbine race, but we could run him in the Shadwell (Turf Mile, gr. I), and then in the Breeders' Cup. That's in a perfect world."
Wise Dan returned from off the bench this year to win the Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland, then took his second edition of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) May 3 at Churchill Downs. Bred by Fink out of the modest Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, he has earned $6,802,920 with record-setting victories in top-level races on turf, dirt, and synthetics.
"He's an amazing horse, I'll tell you," Charlie LoPresti said. "He just amazes me to run the way he does and do the things he does. He's just in a different league than most horses."