Construction may be going full-steam-ahead as the main track at Keeneland undergoes conversion from Polytrack to a dirt surface, but that hasn't stopped two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan from progressing in his comeback from colic surgery.
On July 1 the 7-year-old son of Wiseman's Ferry galloped two strong circuits of the Keeneland training track under regular exercise rider Damien Rock, prompting trainer Charlie LoPresti to indicate his first breeze back could be coming soon.
"We're trying to go as easy as we can, but it's not going to be too much longer before he's going to have a little breeze," LoPresti said. "Man, he's strong. Every day, we're just picking it up a little more. I'm trying to get him as fit as I can without really pressing on him too much."
Wise Dan, a two-time Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner and a six-time Eclipse Award winner overall, underwent emergency colic surgery May 16 at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and had been recovering at LoPresti's Forest Lane Farm near Lexington. He moved back to Keeneland June 23 after tack-walking and beginning to jog at the trainer's private facility.
"I'm just going to try to get as much easy galloping into him as I can, then I'll probably go an easy half-mile down here, and then away he goes," said LoPresti, who will ship his summer string to Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York around July 12.
Wise Dan remains on target for a hopeful comeback in the Aug. 9 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga. It's a one-mile turf contest he has won the past two years en route to repeat victories in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (gr. IT) at Woodbine and the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita Park.
"There's a very good chance (of making the Fourstardave)," LoPresti said. "If I can get a little breeze into him here and then breeze him about three times up there, we'll be in good shape."
LoPresti has mentioned the 1 1/16-mile Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 30 at Saratoga as a potential fallback plan should Wise Dan require more time before starting his second half of the year campaign. Earlier this season before his colic episode, the chestnut gelding won his second consecutive editions of the Maker's 46 Mile Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs.
His current record stands at 21 wins, 10 of them grade I events, and two seconds from 29 starts for earnings of $6,802,920.
Bred in Kentucky by owner Morton Fink out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, Wise Dan is by far the most accomplished of his dam's produce. His older half brother, multiple grade II winner Successful Dan, was recently retired with an 8-3-2 record from 15 starts with earnings just short of the $1 million mark ($998,154).
"He's turned out in a big 20-acre field with a fly mask on—he doesn't like the flies so we put a fly mask on him. He's gotta be a horse," LoPresti said.
The trainer indicated 8-year-old Successful Dan, by Successful Appeal , has not yet been promised to a new home for retraining for a second career, though his connections have had plenty of offers. Grade I-placed, the big bay gelding struggled throughout his career with suspensory issues but flashed immense talent when he was right.
Lisa Danielle, now retired as a broodmare, has three other siblings to Wise Dan still on the track. Casino Dan, a 6-year-old gelding by Mutakddim, won a June 12 one-mile turf allowance at Churchill last time out and will ship to Saratoga. Enchanting Lisa, a 4-year-old War Front filly, should return to the track soon after getting some downtime at Forest Lane off an eighth-place finish in the June 7 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT).
"She has been turned out for 10 days," LoPresti said. "We've been riding her at the farm now but we wanted to freshen her a little bit. I'm not sure what happened in that last race. She never wore a tongue tie and we saw an ulcer, so I think she displaced (last time out)."
Lisa Danielle's last foal, the 2-year-old Afleet Alex filly Afleeting Lisa, is unraced.
"She's at my farm but she needs to come in," LoPresti said. "She'll stay back here; I've got a bunch of 2-year-olds that are further along than her."