There was a time not too long ago when "the other Dan" was Wise Dan, who went on to collect Horse of the Year honors among three Eclipse Awards earned for owner/breeder Morton Fink in 2012. On April 21 racing fans will witness the return of the "original Dan"—Successful Dan—in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland.
The Horse of the Year's older half-brother comes off a layup for a recurring suspensory injury. Dr. Larry Bramlage of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital near Lexington has kept a close eye on the injury as the 7-year-old gelded son of Successful Appeal has put in a strong series of works leading up to the 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali.
"He had three major breezes, two half-mile works and one five-eighths, really strong," trainer Charlie LoPresti said of Successful Dan's April work pattern. "The last breeze was Monday, and they scanned it Tuesday and said he's fine, everything looks good."
MOST WINS BY A HORSE: Knight Counter 3 (1972-74).
MOST WINS BY A JOCKEY: Don Brumfield 5. Active – Robby Albarado 4.
MOST WINS BY A TRAINER: Ben Jones 4, Harry Trotsek 4, Neil Howard 4.
BIGGEST LONGSHOT WINNER: Gallant Moment (1970), paid $64.20 to win.
BIGGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY (since 2007): Wise Dan (2012) 10 1/2 lengths.
FASTEST TIME (since 2007): Wise Dan (2012) 1:46.63.
FACTOIDS: Trainer Neil Howard and jockey Robby Albarado teamed up to win the Ben Ali in three successive years (2003-2005).
Compiled by Gary Dougherty
Successful Dan, a multiple graded stakes winner, went five furlongs at Keeneland in 1:01 4/5 April 15 with jockey Julien Leparoux in the irons. Leparoux will pilot in the Ben Ali from the rail aboard one of the seven older horses entered in the Polytrack test.
"It's the first race off the layup," LoPresti remarked. "I haven't really tightened the screws down, but I've got him fit enough to run a mile and an eighth. He's really good right now, I'll tell you, he's spot on. I don't think I've had him any better, soundness-wise. People don't realize how good he is."
Successful Dan last ran June 30, when he finished second in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III), three lengths behind eventual Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Fort Larned. He went into that race off a victory in the May 4 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) after winning an allowance event at Keeneland. Later in the summer he was considered one of the early favorites for the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course before he was sent to the sidelines with the suspensory issue.
It was an injury that kept him from racing the entire 2011 season after he finished 2010 with a disqualification from first to third in the Clark Handicap (gr. I).
"If Dr. Bramlage said he needed a little bit more time, maybe we would have run him in the Alysheba," LoPresti said. "If he needed a little bit more time, maybe we would have run him in the Stephen Foster. But he's come along really good, this horse. It's worked out good that Wise Dan ran in the Maker's (46 MIle, gr. IT) and that he (Successful Dan) gets to run in this race. You can see he's a picture of health. He'll run his race.
"I'm glad we didn't run him in the Whitney or try to keep going with him. It was the smart thing to do. It was disappointing but hopefully it'll work out for the better. I just want him to run good and come back good. I don't know that he's going to do what Wise Dan did, but I don't care if he wins by a head as long as he wins."
Last year, Wise Dan romped by 10 1/2 lengths in the Ben Ali while setting a track record of 1:46.63 on the Polytrack. Successful Dan also shares an affinity for the surface, where he is 4-for-4 including a victory in the 2010 Greenbrier Fayette Stakes (gr. II).
Lining up to face the returning contender are multi-millionare Richard's Kid and multiple graded stakes winner Boisterous. The latter was supplemented to the race by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and will make his Polytrack debut off a five-month absence while highweighted at 123 pounds. Richard's Kid makes his first start at Keeneland and first outside the California circuit, other than two trips to Dubai, since 2009.
Boisterous, a 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor who races for Phipps Stable, was second in the Nov. 25 River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs last time out. He is the winner of back-to-back editions of the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) and Knickerbocker Stakes (gr. IIIT) in 2001 and 2012, and won the 2012 Fort Marcy (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park. Keeneland leading jockey Joel Rosario will ride from the far outside.
Richard's Kid has collected $2,313,860 in purses in 42 starts. The 8-year-old Lemon Drop Kid horse was third last time out in the March 23 Tokyo City Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita Park for trainer Doug O'Neill and Westside Rentals.com and partners. He is winless since being transferred from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert after being sold prior to the 2012 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I), in which he finished third. He is the winner of the 2010 Pacific Classic and that year's edition of the Goodwood Stakes (gr. I). Rosie Napravnik is in the irons from post 5.
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners' 2012 Travers Stakes (gr. I) dead-heat winner Golden Ticket is also in the field, seeking his first stakes score since that upset. The 4-year-old Speightstown colt was fourth last time out in the March 30 Skip Away Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park for trainer Kenny McPeek.
Barbaro Stakes winner Stephanoatsee, a son of A.P. Indy, was ninth last time out in the March 2 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) for trainer Graham Motion and breeder My Meadowview Farm. Carl Pollard's allowance winner Son of a General and Hattaash, a recent winner at Hawthorne for Kenneth E. Fishbein and C. B. Racing Inc., complete the field.
$150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, approximate post time 4:42 p.m. EDT), 4YOs & Up, 1 1/8 miles (All Weather Track) PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Successful Dan (KY), J.R. Leparoux, 118, C LoPresti
2. Stephanoatsee (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., 118, H G Motion
3. Golden Ticket (KY), J. Graham, 118, K G McPeek
4. Son of a General (KY), R. Albarado, 120, D R Vance
5. Richard's Kid (MD), R. Napravnik, 118, D F O'Neill
6. Hattaash (KY), K.J. Desormeaux, 118, C L Bettis
7. Boisterous (KY), J. Rosario, 123, C R McGaughey III