Wise Dan dominated the field in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
By Jack Shinar, Blood-Horse
Horse of the Year Wise Dan ran his winning streak to six races and surpassed $4 million in career earnings with a facile win in the $546,400 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic over yielding ground May 4 at Churchill Downs.
In the race preceding the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum1 Brands, Jose Lezcano delivered Morton Fink's homebred Wise Dan to the winner's circle in comfortable style by 4 3/4 lengths for trainer Charles LoPresti.
On a rainy day in Louisville, Ky., the Woodford Reserve had much of its luster dampened by the late scratch of multiple grade I winner Point of Entry, who was 7-5 on the morning line.
Six-year-old Wise Dan completed the 1 1/8-mile Woodford Reserve in 1:51.84 as the 3-5 favorite in the field of seven. Optimizer, who contested the pace with Silver Max, was second by 1 3/4 lengths, with Middie rallying from last to snatch the show spot by half a length from Silver Max.
Wise Dan is now 2-for-2 in 2013 following his one-length tally in the Makers 46 Mile at Keeneland April 12. The chestnut gelding by Wiseman's Ferry out of Broodmare of the Year Lisa Danielle earned his fifth consecutive grade I victory, and his sixth win at the top level overall.
Lezcano replaced regular rider John Velazquez aboard Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve because Velazquez was committed to ride Point of Entry.
Wise Dan is now 2-for-2 over the Churchill turf after taking the Firecracker Handicap in July 2011. He had also proven his mettle over cut ground, taking the Fourstardave Handicap by five lengths on the inner turf course at Saratoga Race Course last August.
Breaking from the far outside post, Lezcano settled Wise Dan into third on the outside of Silver Max and Optimizer led the way through the stretch the first time. As the field raced in single file through the opening turn and onto the backstretch, Silver Max maintained a slight edge over Optimizer while clipping off quarter mile fractions of :23.93, :48.51, and 1:13.18.
Wise Dan stalked the leaders around the far turn and into the stretch and the leaders were three abreast approaching mid-stretch. But the race to the wire was no contest as Wise Dan lengthened stride under left-handed urging from Lezcano to register an easy win.
The big gelding earned $331,993 as he improved his career mark to 15 wins and one second from 22 starts with earnings of $4,059,631.
One of the few favorites to win on the Derby card, Wise Dan carried top weight of 124 pounds and paid $3.20, $2.60, $2.20.
Calumet Farm's Optimizer, returning to turf for trainer D. Wayne Lukas following a fourth-place finish in the Oaklawn Handicap April 13, returned $4.20 and $3.20. He completed a $12.80 exacta.
Middie, who lagged far behind the field to the far turn, paid $5.80 to show.
Silver Max was followed by Bim Bam, Slim Shadey, and Jeranimo. Swift Warrior was an earlier scratch before being joined on the sidelines by Point of Entry.
For an Equibase chart, click here.