Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan wasted no time getting back to business after being cleared to resume full training June 30, as trainer Charlie LoPresti sent him out to his first breeze in more than eight months July 17 at Keeneland.
The 8-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding took to the Lexington oval's turf course at about 10 a.m. ET and breezed four furlongs between the dogs in :48 1/5 under exercise rider Jenn Patterson, who has replaced regular rider Damien Rock while he recovers from a knee operation. Wise Dan galloped out in 1:01 3/5.
"Charlie asked what I thought and I honestly said, 'Probably like :50 and change,'" Patterson said. "Then I heard the real time and I said, 'You're kidding me.' But he just does it so easy, he was so relaxed and settled, getting over the turf really nice. As well as he just did that breeze with it being his first breeze back, you don't come by that very often—actually, I really never have. I've had a few horses fool me with how easy they go, and he's definitely one of them ... he came back off the turf with his ears pricked, shaking his head, happy, and that's what we want to see."
Sidelined from racing since a non-displaced fracture of his fetlock at the bottom of his right front cannon bone was discovered in October, Wise Dan could still mount a bid at this year's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) to be run at Keeneland. He counts the 2012 and 2013 editions of the Breeders' Cup Mile among his 11 grade I wins.
"We'll see how he looks after this breeze; if he looks good, we'll keep moving forward," LoPresti said. "In a perfect world I'd just like to piddle with him here all summer and run him in the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) and come here and run in the Shadwell (gr. IT) and the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), or maybe (just) run in the Shadwell and the Breeders' Cup."
Wise Dan, bred by owner Morton Fink out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, has 23 victories and two seconds from 31 starts, good for earnings of more than $7.5 million. He was named Horse of the Year in 2013 and 2012, and swept the titles for champion turf male and champion older male in both of those seasons as well, collecting six Eclipse Awards overall. Last year he won three grade I races and a grade II event despite having his season interrupted by colic surgery.
LoPresti will keep Wise Dan at Keeneland to get more mileage under his girth instead of heading to Saratoga Race Course, where the chestnut gelding spent the summer last season.
"I think it's better to just keep him here for a while ..." the trainer said. "I want to get through a couple breezes with him and see where I'm at rather than take him up there.
"You guys remember last year when I took him up there after the colic surgery, the first work was easy and then everybody said he wasn't the same horse ... he'd just had his belly opened up two months before he went to Saratoga. And I know if he gets up there, there's going to be a lot of hype on him and a lot of pressure on him."
In his comeback from the injury announced Oct. 13 last year, Wise Dan has gone through a steady series of gradual increases in training, from tack-walking to jogging to an every-other-day schedule of jogs and gallops before LoPresti got the OK from Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital last month to go full-steam ahead.
"He's had a couple strong gallops on the dirt track ... he's had some good gallops on the little track ... Dr. Bramlage said if we didn't see anything that bothered us to just go right on, so that's what we did today," LoPresti said. "He's pretty fit. We've been doing a lot with him ... I just wanted to get through this breeze and make sure he was okay.
"I'm really happy for him because that's what he has to do—he wants to train, he wants to run, he's happy doing what he does. You saw that today. Here's a horse that hasn't run since the Shadwell last year, hasn't had a work, and comes up here and works :48-and-change, out in 1:01 and she never moved on him. That tells you what kind of a horse he is.
"It's a big relief to me to know that he's back and his ankle's good and he's happy, and if he never runs again at least I know that he's in good shape. But I'm hoping he'll run again."