Morton Fink's reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan makes his 2013 debut for trainer Charlie LoPresti in the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) April 12 at Keeneland, with only four contenders willing to face him first time off the bench.
Leading the charge against the 123-pound highweight is Stuart S. Janney's four-time graded-stakes winner Data Link , who took the 2012 edition of the Maker's 46 Mile by a neck over Four D Stables' LoPresti-trained Turallure for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
Both LoPresti and McGaughey have healthy respect for the talents of each other's runners heading into the one-mile turf event.
"Data Link's a good horse," LoPresti said of the 5-year-old War Front horse. "Last year when he was running against Turallure, he was the horse I worried about the most. Shug brings them over there ready. He kind of does it like I do."
"Obviously, we know we're going up against the Horse of the Year," McGaughey said of Wise Dan, a 6-year-old gelded son of Wiseman's Ferry . "He's a good horse."
The Maker's 46 Mile, scheduled as the ninth on a 10-race card with an approximate post time of 5:13 p.m. EDT, has drawn a field of five with Wise Dan breaking from the outside, spotting his rivals three to five pounds.
Jockey Jose Lezcano gets the call, substituting for regular rider John Velazquez, who suffered a fractured rib and chipped bone in his right wrist in an April 7 spill at Aqueduct Racetrack. Lezcano rode Wise Dan to victory in his last Keeneland start, the Oct. 6 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT). In that race, Data Link got shuffled back and closed from 11th to finish fifth with a six-wide move.
Wise Dan used the Shadwell last fall as a springboard to his championship finale, a record-setting win in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park. His 2012 season, which included a track record set at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack (1:46.63) last April in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III), brought him not only Horse of the Year honors, but the Eclipse Awards for outstanding older male and outstanding turf horse.
Data Link comes off strong back-to-back victories in the Nov. 23 Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) at Betfair Hollywood Park and the Feb. 23 Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park, and carries 120 pounds while attempting to become just the second repeat winner of the Maker's 46 Mile (Kip Deville took the 2007 and 2008 editions). Javier Castellano will ride from post 4.
"I think you might see a little different dimension to Data Link this time," McGaughey said. "We ran against Wise Dan last fall and it just didn't work out the way we wanted it to (in the Shadwell). He got a little too far back, and I think the way he is now, he'll lay up closer and go on.
"His race in Florida in the Canadian was really a good race. Javier came back and said, 'That was fun.' He has trained really well since then. I think he should run an improved race in the Maker's Mark."
Trained by John Shirreffs, Mr. Commons was fourth in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) in his 2013 debut March 2 at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old son of Artie Schiller will break from post 2 under Corey Nakatani.
Trained by Gary Mandella, Silentio won the 2012 Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIT) at a mile on the turf in his stakes debut last December at Santa Anita and recently finished second, beaten a nose, in the Kilroe Mile.
The 4-year-old Silent Name colt will break from the inside with Rafael Bejarano in the irons.
Completing the field is Calumet Farm's stakes winner Skyring, a 4-year-old son of English Channel who was fifth last time out in the Feb. 2 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Rosie Napravnik gets the mount from post 3.
Suggestive Boy, trained by Ron McAnally to victories in the Kilroe Mile and Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT) in California this year, will miss the race with a minor splint injury.