Breezing for the third time since returning to training after colic surgery, two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan went an easy five furlongs over the Oklahoma turf course July 25 at Saratoga Race Course—leaving trainer Charlie LoPresti to provide reassurance regarding his champion's progress on the comeback trail.
LoPresti said he was not concerned by the slow time of 1:03.72, 14th of 18 over the course at the distance on the morning, and added he was pleased with how the 7-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding finished under regular exercise rider Damien Rock.
"Everybody's worried that he worked slow, but I don't think it was bad at all," LoPresti said. "He finished in :24 and change. If he worked really slow and didn't finish good, or if he worked really fast and didn't finish, then I'd be concerned. But he was just as strong in the last part of it, and that's kind of what I'm looking for from this horse at this particular time—good long-distance works to get good wind into him without asking him for too much."
Wise Dan could run in the Aug. 9 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT), a race he has won the past two years in a row, but LoPresti said he will not put pressure on the six-time Eclipse Award winner to make that target if he isn't naturally coming into form. The trainer has had the Aug. 30 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga as a potential backup race. But he may also wait until the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (gr. IT) at Woodbine Sept. 14, a race Wise Dan has won twice before en route to back-to-back victories in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
"I'm not really making a big push to make it," LoPresti said of the Fourstardave. "We've got two weeks to go; we'll see who goes in there and what the weights are like. He's missed time and he's vulnerable right now, but that's the hand that was dealt to us. He had colic and there's not much we can do about it. I can't worry too much about scheduling and stuff like that. I have to take it work by work and week by week, and I knew that coming up here."
Earlier this year, Wise Dan won the Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs, both for the second year in a row, before undergoing colic surgery May 16. His first breeze back was an easy half mile at Keeneland July 11, followed by a half at Saratoga July 18.
Bred in Kentucky by Morton Fink out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, his current record stands at 21 wins—10 of them in grade I events—and two seconds from 29 starts for earnings of $6,802,920.
"Around nine weeks ago he was laying on the operating table with his belly opened up, and this was just his third work back," LoPresti said. "I'm not concerned. Right after we put him in his stall, he practically ate the bottom out of his feed tub. He seemed pretty unconcerned."
"Even prepping for his first two races this year, he didn't have those blistering works. Damien's got him where he pretty much relaxes the first part of a work and finishes strong," LoPresti said. "He's a year older and every year he's gotten more manageable like that. This past week he trained real strong on the dirt and today he just went over there to the turf about as unconcerned as he could be."