Wise Dan wins the Bernard Baruch Stakes.
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Wise Dan wins the Bernard Baruch Stakes.
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Skip Dickstein

Wise Dan Passes Return Test in Flying Colors

Two-time Horse of the Year tired but fit on morning after Bernard Baruch triumph.

Though he has been with Wise Dan throughout a 30-race campaign that began in the winter of 2010, trainer Charlie LoPresti continues to be awed by his two-time Horse of the Year.

It wasn't any different Aug. 31, the morning after the 7-year-old Morton Fink homebred made a successful and thrilling return to racing by winning the $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) by a nose over Optimizer .

It was the third win in as many starts this year for Wise Dan, but first since having emergency colic surgery on May 16 that briefly threatened his eventual Hall of Fame career.

"Can you believe it? It's incredible," LoPresti said. "He's an amazing creature, I'll tell 'ya. He seems fine. He ate everything up. We got him out and walked him and his legs looked great. I mean, he's a little tired but that's to be expected. He had to really show his heart and class, and that's what makes him the horse that he is."

Though he entertained several options as he brought Wise Dan back to the races, LoPresti ultimately settled on the 1 1/16-mile Bernard Baruch, though it meant giving substantial weight to his opponents.

The 7-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding carried 127 pounds, from eight to 13 more than the rest of the field. Late-running long-shot Optimizer, with 11 fewer pounds, came flying late on the outside but came up just shy to the six-time Eclipse Award winner.

"Optimizer ran a great race," LoPresti said. "(Wise Dan) is not going to have to (give weight) anymore. Now he's got a race in him, and God willing he's OK. I was relieved. It's been tough coming up here with him, just trying to do the right thing and hoping he didn't get sick again. We had to breeze him a bunch to get him ready. It's been tough in trying to make the right decision, but I'm glad we ran here."

Wise Dan boosted his bankroll to just under $7 million and improved to 3-for-3 lifetime at Saratoga, including Fourstardave victories in 2012 and 2013. His final time of 1:39.08 was just .17 off the Mellon turf course record set by Fourstardave in 1991, when the legendary New York-bred carried 115 pounds.

Wise Dan will leave Saratoga Sept. 2 for Kentucky and point for the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) Oct. 4 at Keeneland, and then the Breeders' Cup, where he is the two-time defending Mile champion.

It is a similar campaign that led to Wise Dan being voted champion older male, champion turf male and Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013. There hasn't been a three-time successive Horse of the Year winner since Forego from 1974-76.

"I'm not trying to lobby for Horse of the Year. I said something yesterday (on NBC) and then after I said it, I wished I hadn't," LoPresti said. "But if you think about what this horse has been through, why wouldn't he be Horse of the Year? He's undefeated.

"One thing I don't ever want to get into is any kind of match race or anything like that. I'm going to stick to the plan. He'll have two more races. If we're lucky enough to win those and everything goes good, whatever they decide I'm fine with it. He doesn't have to get Horse of the Year. He's my horse of the year if he never wins another race."