Successful Dan took advantage of a contested early pace and wore down the leaders to set a new Churchill Downs 1 1/16-mile track record while winning the $337,800 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) May 4 (VIDEO).
Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Charles Lopresti, Successful Dan was well off the pace early as longshot Plutonium and 2-1 second choice Nates Mineshaft battled through early fractions of :23.47 and :47.02. Plutonium still led after the opening half-mile but the longshot gave up the lead to Fort Larned on the outside by the time the field entered the stretch. The tempo quickened as the mile was completed in a blistering 1:34.64.
Mucho Macho Man, the 8-5 favorite, and Successful Dan were making their moves down the stretch, with Successful Dan taking charge and drawing off to win in track-record time of 1:41.04.
Successful Dan paid $10.20, $5, and $3.20 as the third choice and improved his bankroll to $596,608 while posting his seventh win in 10 starts. The gelded 6-year-old son of Successful Appeal --Lisa Danielle (by Wolf Power) bred and owned by Morton Fink has only finished off the board once in his career. He has proven especially effective at Churchill, winning three of four starts.
Fort Larned, a length behind the winner, paid $6.20 and $3.60. Mucho Macho Man was six lengths farther back to return $2.80 as the 17-10 choice.
“This is one of the best horses I’ve ridden so far in my career,” said Leparoux, who has seven wins in eight starts on Successful Dan. “He’s a beautiful horse and he has a great kick. I got him in a good place early and he relaxed really nice. When I asked him to run, he gave me a great run down the stretch.”
“I didn’t know if he could duplicate his race at Keeneland,” Lopresti said. “This field worried me, but this race shows me that he has come back as the horse he was. You always worry when they come back from an injury like this.
" It’s not so much about the win, it’s seeing him come back OK. He’s a great horse. He has never been beaten at Churchill, and he has never been beaten at Keeneland.”
(Successful Dan finished first in the 2010 Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill but disqualified for interference and placed third. He didn't race in 2011 because of an injury.)
Lopresti said Successful Dan and his full brother, Wise Dan, will remain apart in upcoming races, with Wise Dan pointed toward the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill.
“He held on well all the way to the end,” jockey Javier Castellano said of Fort Larned. “He gave a great performance today. He gave me everything he had and I was very pleased with him.”
“He tried hard and ran well, but he just didn’t get there today,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said of Much Macho Man.