Morton Fink’s homebred Wise Dan completed his major training preparations for the June 16 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs with a bullet, five-furlong work in :59 2/5 for trainer Charlie Lopresti June 7 over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland.
“He went very well,” said Lopresti. “He’s been working lights out.”
The 31st running of the Stephen Foster for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track will make history as it will be run under the lights for the first time as part of the “Downs After Dark” Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program.
Also for the first time, the Stephen Foster Handicap is part of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships’ “Win and You’re In" series and its winner will earn an automatic starting berth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.
Wise Dan, a 5-year-old gelding by Wiseman's Ferry , will enter the Stephen Foster off a 10 1/2-length romp in the April 22 Ben Ali (gr. III) at Keeneland in his first start since winning the Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs in November.
In both of those starts, Wise Dan was ridden by John Velazquez and Lopresti confirmedVelazquez would be aboard in the Stephen Foster.
Wise Dan’s half brother Successful Dan, also a Fink homebred, breezed five furlongs in :58 4/5 at Keeneland June 5.
A 6-year-old gelding by Successful Appeal , Successful Dan most recently won Churchill Downs’ Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (gr. II) in track-record time on the Kentucky Oaks Day undercard.
“We will probably enter them both, but I don’t want to run them against each other,” Lopresti said. “Wise Dan will start in the Stephen Foster and Successful Dan will be entered as a back-up plan. I’d hate for Wise Dan to come down with a fever or something before the race and have to be scratched and then we’re sitting on the sidelines if we don’t enter Successful Dan, too.
“My goal for Successful Dan is the Suburban (gr. II, at Belmont Park July 7) or the Cornhusker (gr. III, at Prairie Meadows June 30).”
While June 7 marked the final major pre-Foster move for Wise Dan, Lopresti noted he might school him in the gate at Keeneland before the race and could bring him to Louisville June 10 to school in the paddock.
“As long as they both come out of these works well, I think I’ve got them both where they were before their last races,” Lopresti said.