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Wise Dan powers to victory in the Maker's 46 Mile Stakes on Friday at Keeneland Race Course. (Coady Photography)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Wise Dan is 7 now, an age when a Thoroughbred might be forgiven for losing a step or two or three. Instead, the two-time defending Horse of the Year remains sensational.

Wise Dan turned his 7-year-old debut into yet another breathtaking display of push-button responsiveness and crushing speed when he took the Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes by three-quarters of a length over Kaigun on Friday at Keeneland Race Course.

The one-mile contest was not nearly as close as the margin might suggest.

When jockey John Velazquez prompted Wise Dan around the final turn and he surged clear midway through the stretch run, his 20th career victory was a foregone conclusion.

The outcome was all the more stunning because trainer Charles LoPresti recalled the harshness of the Kentucky winter and noted that there were only a handful of days in February in which the weather was good enough for training. Numerous times inclement weather limited them to jogging under cover.

LoPresti estimated that the Wiseman’s Ferry gelding was only 75-percent fit for his return. And yet he stood out against a quality field that included Lochte, a Grade 1 winner forced to settle for third, and Za Approval, a multiple stakes winner who needed to be steadied into the far turn and lacked any late kick in coming in fourth in the field of six.

“He’s just an incredible horse,” LoPresti said. “I kid around and say I could pull him out of the field and he would beat most horses. I wouldn’t go that far, but he is just an incredible horse.”

LoPresti expressed his prerace concerns about fitness in the paddock.

“I was talking to Charlie before the race and he said ‘I don’t know if I have him really tight. Make sure you save something,’ ” Velazquez said.

The jockey and mount were reunited for the first time since Velazquez was seriously injured during the Breeders’ Cup, keeping him from Wise Dan’s triumph by three-quarters of a length in the Mile under emergency rider Jose Lezcano.

Velazquez saved ground early and made sure to give his horse a clear shot at the leaders by keeping him four wide along the backstretch. Then came the moment of truth. Would Wise Dan answer the call as he had so many times before or had the march of time finally taken something from him?

“He was there for me,” said a relieved Velazquez.

MAKER'S MARK MILE SLIDESHOW

Photos by Coady Photography

The victory was the 20th in 28 starts for Wise Dan and his 12th in 13 starts on turf. He is 13-for-14 at the one-mile distance, completing his latest test in 1:34.91. The winner’s share of the $300,000 purse hiked his earnings to $6,473,610.

Wise Dan’s enormous popularity was reflected at the betting windows. He returned $2.80 for a $2 win wager.

Mort Fink, breeder and owner of the great gelding, has run out of words to describe a horse that enhances his reputation seemingly with every powerful stride.

“You think I could come up with words to describe that?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s like a dream, the whole thing.”

If Wise Dan comes out of the race well, LoPresti would like to aim for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, a Grade 1 event that is part of the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 3 before a summer campaign is planned for a gelding who seemingly defies the passage of time.

For an Equibase chart, click here.

 

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