A steady campaign placed Wise Dan squarely on top of the Male Turf Horse category for the Eclipse Award this year—an honor he won last season when sweeping Horse of the Year and Older Horse titles as well.
Grade I winner Point of Entry and Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) victor Magician both delivered stirring performances in 2013, but inconsistency marred their records. Wise Dan? Well, at turf events from seven to eight furlongs, he just kept winning.
Winners in the 17 horse and human categories will be announced at the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The ceremony will air live on HRTV.
Morton Fink's 6-year-old son of $5,000 stallion Wiseman's Ferry galloped to victory six times at five different tracks, taking the Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland on firm turf in April, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) and the Firecracker Handicap (gr. IT) over very wet going at Churchill Downs in May and June, defending his title in the Foustardave Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course in August, and setting a course record at Woodbine with a sparkling 1:31.75 repeat in September's Ricoh Woodbine Mile (gr. IT).
Trainer Charlie LoPresti did not shirk an edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) moved to Polytrack in an October deluge back at Keeneland, and despite racing wide on both turns over the soggy surface, Wise Dan ran a good second to frontrunner Silver Max . That loss, however, raised questions over the chestnut gelding's route to a Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) return, the race he won in a record 1:31.78 at Santa Anita Park. Was he the same horse who dazzled the masses in 2012? LoPresti said he was even better.
Five-time grade I winner Point of Entry faced the same questions headed to the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) with just two starts—both victories—under his belt in 2013.
Phipps Stable's 5-year-old Dynaformer runner, racing in partnership with Stronach Stable for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, defeated 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) in early February, and was slated to face Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. But the connections opted to scratch from that race due to the yielding grass, and Point of Entry did not see action again until taking the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park in June.
A condylar fracture took him out of training after that win, and although he came back strong, it was a tall task off the layup to tackle the Turf—a race he lost by half a length in 2012. He finished fourth in the 2013 edition and retired to stud at Stronach's Adena Springs.
It was Magician, the dark horse of the division, who defeated favored British filly The Fugue, Argentinian import Indy Point, and Point of Entry in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf. Flying on the outside under Ryan Moore, the Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) winner surprised in his first start in 4 1/2 months for trainer Aidan O'Brien. After a victory in the group III Dee Stakes at Chester in May and a ninth in the St. James Palace Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot in June, that lone North American outing on racing's biggest stage for owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Susan Magnier was enough to assure the 3-year-old Galileo colt's finalist status for male turf champion.
But Wise Dan was the standout of the trio, capping his solid season with another victory in the Mile while overcoming trouble just after the start and closing from eighth in a 10-horse field to register the repeat by three-quarters of a length. Some might knock his specialist nature, but none could knock his brilliant consistency.