Morton Fink's Wise Dan, taken much farther back than usual given a blistering early pace, circled rivals on the far turn and drew away late to win the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park for the second year in a row. (VIDEO),
The 6-year-old gelding by Wiseman's Ferry out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle won for the sixth time in seven starts this year. Wise Dan, the 2012 Horse of the Year, completed the mile in a sharp 1:32.47 on a course rated firm.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, who replaced the injured John Velazquez, for trainer Charles LoPresti, Wise Dan was met with a roar of applause when he returned to the winner's circle. Za Approval finished second, with Silentio third and Silver Max fourth.
Wise Dan was bred in Kentucky by his owner.
"Holy straight; he's a real special horse," LoPresti said. "If you can get him covered up, he's a much easier ride. This one is for John Velazquez, who was really keen to ride this horse, but we had every confidence in Lezcano. We had to go to Plan B."
Fink in a television interview indicated he'd like to see the gelding race again in 2014.
Wise Dan broke a bit awkwardly from post 8 in the 10-horse field but was gathered by Lezcano as several horses gunned for early position passing the stands the first time. Obviously, a confirmed front-runner, quickly opened up a lead and clipped off fractions of :21.94 for the opening quarter-mile and :44.47 for the half-mile.
Lezcano sat chilly aboard Wise Dan on the backstretch, but the gelding began to gain ground outside of foes entering the far turn. Obviously still held the lead past the six-furlong mark in 1:08.55 as Za Approval, Silver Max, Silentio, and Wise Dan took aim.
Za Approval, at 18-1, took the lead under Joel Rosario and pulled away by 1 1/2 lengths as Silentio rallied to his inside. But Wise Dan continued his sustained run and edged away from Za Approval and Silentio in the lane to win by three-quarters of a length. Za Approval finished another three-quarters of a length in front of Silentio.
Wise Dan paid $3.60, $2.80, and $2.20 across the board as the heavy favorite. Za Approval paid $8.40 and $5.80, while Silentio paid $9 to show. The $1 exacta paid $16.80, and the $1 trifecta paid $210.10.
"He stumbled at the break and I had to go easy with him for awhile until he got his stride under him," Lezcano said. "About the five-sixteenths pole I could see I could make my move, and he really ran great coming home."
"It was a very fast-run race," said Christophe Clement, who trains Za Approval. "I thought maybe (Rosario) was moving a touch too early, but I was wrong. He went very well; it took the Horse of the Year to beat him."
Wise Dan won for the 19th time in 27 starts, with two seconds. His career earnings stand at $6,293,610.