The youngsters were newly arrived from trainer Charlie LoPresti's nearby Forest Lane Farm and the 7-year-old champ viewed their occasional spooks and squeals with pricked ears and an air of experienced superiority. You'd never see him throwing such hijinks, no sir. Not any more, at least.
Six Eclipse Awards, two victories in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), multiple record-setting grade I victories, four wins from as many starts in 2014, and a comeback from colic surgery this May have settled the Wiseman's Ferry gelding from his firecracker days. But don't confuse that mellow nature with loss of zeal. Wise Dan still gives his handlers a feisty bit of feel-good sass now and then, especially when he hasn't raced in a while.
Recovering from a minor non-displaced fracture at the bottom of the cannon bone of his right front fetlock, Morton Fink's homebred runner has been powering along down the shedrow. He tack-walks every day under regular exercise rider Damien Rock, and although his usual season vacation is about to begin, LoPresti fully expects him to campaign in 2015.
"Looking at the X-rays the other day, we're remarkably happy with the way that thing has healed," LoPresti said. "Unless something flares up that I don't know about, or that injury rears its ugly head again, the prognosis is good. I'm just going to give him the winter and start back with him, and hopefully he'll be in the Breeders' Cup next year."
Wise Dan's last victory of the season was a repeat in the Oct. 4 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT), after which his connections noticed the filling in his right front ankle that derailed plans for a third straight Breeders' Cup bid. Earlier in the year he won the Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) before undergoing colic surgery and coming back from that with a win in the Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT).
"I could have run that horse in the Breeders' Cup, but I didn't want to do it because I didn't think it was the right thing to do," LoPresti said. "He probably would have won the race, but what he would have done to his ankle might have been irreparable."
Wise Dan continues his daily routine of tack-walking, turnout in the round pen, and standing on the vibration plate, but LoPresti plans to move him to Forest Lane this week. The brilliant chestnut has traditionally spent the winter months at the farm near Lexington before coming back to the track in late February to prepare for a campaign each spring.
"I can take him (to the farm) any time, but he's just been so happy walking around that barn with Damien on his back every day, and going out in the round pen. ..." LoPresti explained. "Dr. (Larry) Bramlage said the best thing for him is to be in the paddock and moving around."
Wise Dan, bred by Fink in Kentucky out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, has taken 11 grade I races in his 23 wins and finished second twice from 31 starts, good for earnings of $7,552,920. 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.
"He's gonna get turned out, and we'll just start him back," LoPresti said. "If he comes back good and we can run him, we'll run him. If not, at least he'll be a sound horse. You can't even tell he had the injury. He doesn't have any filling in his ankles or anything."