Trainer Charles Lopresti drove from his Lexington base June 28 with Morton Fink’s homebred Wise Dan to give the 4-year-old son of Wiseman’s Ferry a half-mile work over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course. Wise Dan zipped around the “dogs” on the firm course in : 48 4/5 – the second-fastest time among nine works at the distance. And, in Lopresti’s view, Wise Dan passed the test and is much closer to making a racing debut on turf July 4 in the $175,000 Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT).
“He worked awful good this morning,” Lopresti said. “That was his first time on the grass. He finished up real strong – I think he came home the last quarter in something like :23 and change. He really wasn’t sure what to do down the backside because he’d never been on it before.
“I’m going to talk Mr. Fink about it and, if he comes out of this breeze good, we’re seriously considering it.”
Jockey Jon Court was aboard for the work and Lopresti said he would get the call.
“All we wanted to really do is see what he felt like when he kicked it down the lane,” Lopresti said. “Jon eased him up. He said he would have gone a lot further than that, but I told him don’t go too far because I wanted to leave something left in the tank in case we decided to run.”
Wise Dan has a career record of 4-0-0 in nine races, all on synthetic or dirt and highlighted by a victory in last fall’s Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) over Keeneland’s Polytrack. He finished sixth, beaten only 2 ½ lengths by Big Drama, in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs and closed out his 2010 season with a one-mile allowance win over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
Wise Dan has not won in three starts this year, but two were strong efforts in the fourth-place finishes to Aikenite in the Commonwealth Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland and in a stakes-quality allowance race on the Churchill Downs dirt in which Firecracker contender General Quarters finished second.
Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters took an easy trip around the turf course in his final prep for the Firecracker.
The 5-year-old son of Sky Mesa cruised four furlongs around the “dogs” in :52 1/5. The move under jockey Jamie Theriot was the slowest of eight at the distance, and McCarthy could not have been happier with it.
“We went off extra slow and finished a little faster,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t want to take too much out of him. I told Jamie I wanted him to go between :50 and :52, and he went :52.”
General Quarters, winner of last year’s Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT), looms as the likely starting high weight in the one-mile Firecracker at 119 pounds. He is coming off a runner-up finish to multiple stakes winner Native Ruler at seven furlongs on dirt in his seasonal debut.
McCarthy’s star brings a record of 4-8-2 in 22 races and earnings of $1,178,200 into the featured event on the final program of the 38-day spring meet.
Trainer Chris Block confirmed that Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Grasis “definite” to run in the Firecracker after a four-furlong work. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan was aboard as the 4-year-old Belong to Me gelding covered the distance in an easy :51 4/5. Bridgmohan has the Firecracker mount on Mister Marti Gras, whom he piloted to a one-mile allowance win over the Churchill Downs turf June 3.
Jeffrey Columbro and Connie Apostelos’ Baryshnikov, runner-up to Paddy O'Pradoin Pimlico’s Dixie Handicap (gr. IIT), completed his serious training for the Firecracker with a five-furlong move on the six-furlong dirt course at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center. The Mike Maker-trained son of Empire Maker covered the distance over a fast surface in 1:03 1/5.
Julien Leparoux is scheduled to ride Baryshnikov, who has won five of his last seven races. He won an allowance race on the turf at Keeneland prior to his run in the Dixie, where Baryshnikov had a three-length late in mid-stretch before he was run down by Paddy O’Prado.
Preston Stable’s Flat Out , sixth to Pool Play on dirt in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), tuned up for his possible turf debut in the Firecracker with a four-furlong work in :50 1/5 over on the turf. Jockey Corey Lanerie was up for the move by the 5-year-old Flatter, who has a career record of 3-1-0 in eight races on dirt.