Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan saw his nine-race win streak come to an end Oct. 5 at Keeneland when Silver Max delivered a front-running score in the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (gr. II), which was moved to the main track and contested at 1 1/16 miles (VIDEO).
Morton Fink's homebred Wise Dan, favored at 1-2, raced in third in the far turn for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez as Silver Max led from soon after the start. Turning for home Wise Dan launched his move, but in the stretch Silver Max proved to have something in reserve under jockey Robby Albarado as he added to his advantage, opening up 2 1/2 lengths in midstretch.
"At the three-eighths pole, I thought I was going to be in control, that (running down Silver Max) was going to be easy, but when I went after him, (Silver Max) started running again," Velazquez said.
That nine-race win streak included a 2 1/4-length score in last year's Shadwell Turf Mile, Wise Dan's final start before winning the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) in track record time at Santa Anita Park.
But this year would be different from the start as the race was moved to the main track because of the downpour. Wise Dan's trainer Charlie LoPresti said the son of Wiseman's Ferry tried hard on the surface where he set a track record for 1 1/8 miles in last year's Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III), although Saturday's surface had been drenched by rain.
"Maybe with the water on it, it was more sticky. That's what it looks like to me but I am not going to make any excuses," LoPresti said. "He ran a great race; he really did. Johnny said (Silver Max) won fair and square; he just got loose on the front end."
With the 1 1/4-length victory, Dana Wells and Mark Bacon's Silver Max extended his win streak to three races, all graded stakes. The 4-year-old son of Badge of Silver —Kissin Rene, by Kissin Kris, who scored at odds of 7-1, is trained by Dale Romans.
"He's got such a high cruising speed," Romans said. " 'Take it to them right away and let them catch you.'
Silver Max was bred in Kentucky by Steve C. Snowden and Seth and Will Lauffer out of the Kissin Kris mare Kissin Rene. He now has an 11-5-1 record from 22 starts, with earnings of $1,658,403.
"He's doing so well," Albarado said. "The horse has been training forwardly, the best he's been doing since he started with him. Dale prepared him well this year with stretching his races out. He's a fresh horse."
Romans said he may have been too aggressive with the 2012 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) winner last year.
"He had management issues. I threw him to the wolves probably a little quicker than I should have, but we backed up and regrouped and he's strong this fall," Romans said. "We had a tired horse last fall. This fall we're just peaking."
Lael Stable and All In Stable's Willcox Inn finished third.
The race was moved to the Keeneland main track because of strong and steady rain throughout the day at the Lexington oval, and the distance was changed from one mile to 1 1/16 miles. Such changes require the race initially be downgraded one grade, in this case to grade II, pending review by the American Graded Stakes Committee. Considering the strength of the field that stayed in the race, it rates a strong chance to retain its grade I status.
The race also looses its guaranteed berth to the 2013 Breeders' Cup Mile as a "Win & You're In" challenge race.
Silver Max completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:42.06. He paid $17 to win, $4.40 to place, and $4 to show. Wise Dan returned $2.60, $2.10; Willcox Inn paid $4.80.