Morton Fink’s reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan muscled his way through five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 flat April 4 at Keeneland, setting himself up perfectly for a 2013 debut in the April 12 Maker’s 46 Mile (gr. IT).
The 6-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding had regular exercise rider Damien Rock in the saddle as Keeneland clockers caught him in splits of :12 1/5, :24 2/5, :36 1/5, and galloping out in 1:13 over the all-weather surface.
“I thought he worked good,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said. “Everybody else thought he looked good. Damien said he felt awesome, and said he could have gone around there again.”
Wise Dan, record-setting winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), has put in four consecutive bullet works at Keeneland since coming back from a brief winter respite at LoPresti’s Forest Lane Farm in early January. He went six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 March 26, the same distance in 1:13 March 19, and five furlongs March 12 in 1:01.
“He’s just a phenomenal horse,” LoPresti remarked. “He had that time off and when he came in here, he’d been a little bit behind this year because of the weather, but he’s good now. His coat’s a little long, but he’s wintered here. It’s got a good color to it, and he’s eaten everything.”
Wise Dan launched his championship campaign last year with a 10 1/2-length romp at Keeneland in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III), running the current record time for 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack. He posted four other graded stakes scores—three of them grade I events—that would solidify his status as the 2012 champion older horse and champion turf male in addition to his Horse of the Year honors.
Lopresti has kept this year's edition of the Ben Ali as "plan B" in the back of his mind, a tempting option for the chestnut's first outing since the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Mile. Other probables for the Maker's 46 Mile include Canadian Turf (gr. IIIT), Citation Handicap (gr. IIT), and Monmouth (gr. IIT) winner Data Link (who also captured last year's Maker's Mark) and Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) and Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT) winner Suggestive Boy. Grade II winner Silentio, runner-up in the Kilroe, is also likely to ship from the West Coast. Also under consideration are Keep Up, Seruni, and Skyring, according to Keeneland stakes coordinator Scott Jones.
"The Ben Ali would be an easier race for him, like it was last year," LoPresti said. "I think he could be vulnerable in this grade I; you’ve got horses like Data Link, he’s already run (in 2013), they’ve got Suggestive Boy coming in from California… if he ran in the Ben Ali he would just gallop like he did last year in that race, because I don’t know what kind of horses are going to come in a race like that; that’s not a tough race, I don’t think."
Still, LoPresti reiterated his plans to start the champ in the tougher spot if all goes well between now and April 12.
"I’m going to talk to Mr. Fink about it," he remarked. "They’d be happy as heck if Wise Dan doesn’t show up in the Maker’s Mark, but unless something goes wrong that’s where we’ll run him."
According to LoPresti, Wise Dan could gallop on the Keeneland turf course April 9, but will likely do most of his light work in a holding pattern on the main track.
“We’ll see how he comes out of it, I’ll see how tough he’s going to be,” the trainer said. “If I do gallop him on the turf it’ll be Tuesday. I can tell you it didn’t take anything out of him this morning, though. I think we’ve got him pretty good right now.”