Trainer Charlie LoPresti has reason to remain cautious when speaking of how Successful Dan is training up to the Aug. 3 Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I), a race the 7-year-old son of Successful Appeal missed last year after injuring his suspensory.
But after Successful Dan fired his second bullet at the Spa—five furlongs in 1:00.15 July 26 with a powerful gallop-out under regular exercise rider Damien Rock—LoPresti couldn't help giving a glowing report on the progress Morton Fink's homebred has made since his fourth-place finish in the June 15 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
"He did it all on his own, was never asked for anything," LoPresti said of the move, Successful Dan's second at the Spa. "He's doing exceptionally well, as good as he was last year. We've got to get through the rest of this morning and get through the rest of the week, so I'm not getting too far ahead of myself—we're just keeping our fingers crossed."
A four-time graded stakes winner, Successful Dan has raced just twice this year, winning the April 21 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland before his Stephen Foster run. The gelding did not run in 2011 because of a suspensory injury, and incurred similar injuries in 2009 after winning the Northern Dancer (gr. III) at Churchill.
Following a runner-up effort to Fort Larned in the Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) last June, he was training well at Saratoga pointing toward the Whitney before the suspensory caused him to miss the race and the rest of the season, including a run at the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).
One concern for LoPresti is the potential pace scenario for this upcoming edition of the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event for this year's Classic to be held Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. In the Stephen Foster, 2012 Classic victor Fort Larned went winging along wire-to-wire to win by 6 1/4 lengths while finishing the 1 1/8-mile test in 1:47.45, second in stakes history only to Victory Gallop's 1:47.28 in 1999.
Fort Larned is the leading contender for the Whitney, a race he upset last year with an 1 1/4-length victory over Ron the Greek. Other potential starters include Mucho Macho Man (second in the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2012), Ron the Greek, Cross Traffic, and Alpha.
"It depends on who goes in there and everything; I want to know there's enough speed to go with Fort Larned so he just doesn't get out there and go flying," LoPresti said. "Our horse isn't going to go out there with him, that's just not his running style. He's got to come out of this work good and he's got to be bouncing around like he's been doing the past two weeks, and as long as he's doing that, I'll run him."
Successful Dan also breezed five furlongs July 20 at Saratoga, stopping the clock in 1:00.61.
"He just came up here in great shape after the Foster," the trainer remarked. "We were all scratching our heads trying to figure out what went wrong in that race. His red blood cells were a little depleted, but not that bad. (Jockey) Julien (Leparoux) said he didn't handle that track very well. I don't know why, he'd never been beat on that track before. It was a very weirdly-run race that night. Look at Take Charge Indy—he was the buzz horse going in, and he finished last."
LoPresti said reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who, like Successful Dan, is out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, will likely work July 27 on the turf course at Saratoga. The 6-year-old gelded son of Wiseman's Ferry is pointing toward a title defense in the Aug. 10 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT), a race he took by five lengths last year en route to his record-setting Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) win.
In fact, Wise Dan has not been beaten since winning the 2012 Fourstardave and has strung together seven graded stakes victories, five of them in grade I events.
"I worked him on the dirt the other day (four furlongs in :51.24 on July 20) and he worked good," LoPresti said. "He's either going to breeze on the dirt or the grass. More than likely, he's going to the turf tomorrow since Mr. Fink really wants to stay on the grass course with him."
One final update on the "Dan siblings"—the filly Enchanting Lisa is entered July 28 in an allowance event going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf at the Spa. By War Front, Lisa Danielle's sophomore daughter broke her maiden by seven lengths at first asking June 12 at a mile and 70 yards on the all weather track at Presque Isle Downs.