Wise Dan The Man
Wise Dan The Man: Dirt, turf, synthetic – no surface has posed an obstacle to Wise Dan. The now eight-year-old chestnut gelding took the racing world by storm as he claimed several Eclipse Awards between 2012 and 2013. His career up to this point has been nothing short of phenomenal, and racing fans are looking forward to the hopeful return of the blazed, golden champion.
While Wise Dan’s racing career started out much more slowly and inconsistently than would become the norm, he certainly showed promise from the start. In his first start in 2010 as a three-year-old, Wise Dan broke from the gates of Turfway Park but faltered in his bid, finishing fifth in the 6-1/2 furlong maiden special weight over the all-weather track. He discovered his destiny in his next start as he blew away the rest of the field by 15-1/4 lengths.
He then formed a three-win streak with victories in an allowance optional claiming event and in his first graded stakes attempt in the Grade III Phoenix Stakes, both run over synthetic tracks. Having run solely in sprints, trainer Charles LoPresti and breeder and owner Morton Fink decided to try their ward in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI). In his first start over dirt in that race against more experienced counterparts, Wise Dan was only able to finish sixth, albeit only 2-1/2 lengths behind the winner Big Drama. The young gelding then dispelled any concerns about his taking to dirt by winning a one-mile allowance optional claiming event by one length before retiring for the winter.
Wise Dan turned in a few shaky performances upon his return for a four-year-old season. First, he finished fourth in the April Commonwealth Stakes (GII) at Keeneland before stretching out to 1-1/16 miles and finishing eighth in the Grade III Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs. The gelding was then returned to allowance optional claiming company, but he turned in another fourth-place result. It was after that race that the real Wise Dan began to emerge.
Trying turf for the first time, Wise Dan bounced along to a 2-3/4-length victory in the Firecracker Handicap (GII), and he then claimed the Presque Isle Mile Stakes by half a length. In a race that would twice avoid his capture, Wise Dan finished fourth in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (GI) to turf specialist Gio Ponti. The gelding’s winning ways soon resurfaced as he trounced the field of the Fayette Stakes (GII) by four lengths. Wise Dan then hooked up with John Velazquez to take his first Grade I victory in the Clark Handicap, denying the likes of Mission Impazible and Flat Out by a clear 3-3/4 lengths.
Wise Dan rambunctiously returned for a five-year-old year with an uncontrollably exuberant 10-1/2-length victory in Keeneland’s 1-1/8-mile Ben Ali Stakes (GIII) in track record time of 1:46.63. The beloved gelding then withstood a rough ride to finish second while carrying top weight of 123 pounds in the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs. Wise Dan was first carried out by another horse and then drifted out on his own, but he finished well enough to only lose by a head to Ron the Greek.
The chestnut charger returned to the turf after that near-miss and took four consecutive one-mile, graded stakes victories to close out his five-year-old season. Wise Dan won the Fourstardave Handicap (GII) by five lengths, the Woodbine Mile Stakes (GI) by 3-1/4 lengths, the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes by 2-1/4 lengths, and the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) over 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom by 1-1/2 lengths in new track record time of 1:31.78, just .37 seconds off of the world record time for a mile set by champion Dr. Fager. That accomplishment and his many others earned Wise Dan three 2012 Eclipse Award titles that had not been earned by the same horse in the same year since the grand old gelding John Henry swept the trio in 1981: Horse of the Year, Champion Older Horse, and Champion Male Turf Horse.
Wise Dan took the winter off and approached his six-year-old debut in April of 2014. As if intent on prolonging his winning streak and outdoing his past performances, he rambled off a nearly uninterrupted series of victories. The gelding continued to romp on the turf, winning the Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes (GI) by 1 length and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (GI) by 4-3/4 lengths. In his repeat victories of the Firecracker Handicap and the Fourstardave Handicap, Wise Dan edged clear of his much more lightly weighted rivals as he carried 128 and 129 pounds in each race, respectively. The chestnut and his bold white blaze then stopped the clock of the Woodbine Mile Stakes at 1:31.75 to set a new track record for the one-mile distance in the process of trouncing Za Approval and the rest of the field by 3-1/2 lengths in yet another repeat victory.
Alas, victory would not spring eternal for the gelding – not totally, at least. Wise Dan’s record of one-for-two in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes turned into a record of one-for-three when he was bumped at the start and unable to bridge the gap between himself and winner Silver Max while in pursuit from the six-wide path. The loss apparently did nothing to shake Wise Dan’s confidence nor anyone’s belief in his prowess as he easily rebounded to again take the Breeders’ Cup Mile and claim year-end honors as Horse of the Year, Champion Male Turf Horse, and Champion Older Horse.
Although he was entering his next season of racing as a seven-year-old, a generally agreed upon “old” age for a racehorse, Wise Dan showed no signs of slowing down. He became a dual winner of the Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes in holding off Kaigun by three-quarters of a length, and he was wrestled back in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic before battling with Seek Again down the stretch to win his second edition of that race by a game head.
Wise Dan was removed from racing in mid-May due to a bout of colic and the resulting surgery, but he returned rearing to go in the Bernard Baruch Handicap (GII) over 1-1/16 miles on the turf in August. In a race that LoPresti certainly intended to be an easy race for his returning star, the distinguished gelding had to fight for the victory. Carrying 127 pounds to Optimizer‘s 116, Wise Dan was able to just hang on to get the win by a nose. The bright chestnut then set out to at least balance his record of wins and losses in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes. As if intentionally proving that he could still win in the face of an inferior race set-up, Wise Dan basically replicated his previous loss in the race: he started in a rather unprepared fashion and ran six-wide again, but this time he was able to accelerate enough to sweep past the leaders to win by a length, thus improving his record for the race to two-for-four.
Shortly after his avenging performance in October, Wise Dan was removed from racing due to a non-displaced fracture at the bottom of his cannon bone, dashing the hopes of the fan favorite receiving top honors for a third time at the end of 2014. It was announced that the gelding would be retired without normal regrowth of the bone, but fortunately that process seems to be taking place. Connections are optimistic about his return to racing, and he recently began tack-walking at Keeneland. Wise Dan will be checked again at the end of April, and if all looks well, the champion will be able to return to the track for training.
Because of his popular son’s outstanding career thus far on the track, Wise Dan’s recently deceased sire Wiseman’s Ferry received some extra attention. The stallion carried on the Storm Cat line as a son of Hennessy, and his dam Emmaus is a half-sister to the successful sire Bernstein, providing Wiseman’s Ferry with a rather large amount of potential as a sire himself. In addition, as a three-year-old he was a graded stakes winner of the West Virginia Derby (GIII) and Louisiana Derby (GIII), so he was able to pass on some racing abilities along with his solid bloodlines.
Wise Dan’s dam Lisa Danielle was not a very good race mare, but as a producer she has proved herself to be among the best. Aside from Wise Dan, she has foaled the multiple graded stakes winner Successful Dan, and in 2012 she was voted Kentucky Broodmare of the Year.
The lack of racing potential is repeated by second-dam Askmysecretary, by Secretariat, who was unraced. She was a decent producer, dropping the graded stakes placed Carsona and the hardy gelding Kirby’s Slew who ran for eight years to rack up a whopping record of 110-11-12-10 with earnings of $148,558. Third-dam Laquiola, by Lyphard, was a French racer with minor success in winning the listed Prix de la Seine and coming in second in the Group III Prix Cleopatre. However, she failed to produce any winners out of her four listed foals.
Wise Dan’s existence as a gelding proves to be rather fortuitous for the racing community as there will be never be any quick shuttling of the chestnut to the breeding shed. For now, Wise Dan’s imposing record stands at 31-23-2-0 with earnings of $7,552,920. Amongst great racehorses, the racetrack has been graced and dominated by such geldings as Kelso, Forego, John Henry, and now, Wise Dan.