A week ago Saturday, I watched the Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) from the Hawthorne paddock. I was hoping to see Wise Dan win…how can you not love Wise Dan? He has been so consistent on grass, not having lost over it in three years. Out for colic surgery for a few months earlier this year, he showed immense heart in turning back Optimizer’s late run in the Bernard Baruch (GII), holding on to win by a nose. I had my questions from a handicapping perspective, but as a fan, who I wanted to win was clear.
As much as I wanted Wise Dan to win, I didn’t think things looked good for him. He broke belatedly, and spotted the field a couple of lengths. Silver Max had no pressure up front in the opening quarter, and only slight pressure from Sayaad even in the opening half. Wise Dan got bottled up in traffic down the backstretch and into the far turn. He was still sixth in the field of eight approaching the turn for home, and had to go wide.
None of this mattered. Great horses find a way to win, and Wise Dan did just that. He had room approaching the eighth pole, and really began to roll. Even entering the final sixteenth he still had to deal with Grand Arch and Sayaad. He found his next gear, strode past them, and won by a widening length. Track announcer Kurt Becker had it right: it was breathtaking.
This morning, word came out via the Breeders’ Cup that Wise Dan will not be going for his third straight Breeders’ Cup Mile championship. He has an ankle injury, a non-displaced fracture in his right front cannon bone. It isn’t the sort of thing for which he will get surgery. It requires time and rest, things he will be getting.
In a sense, this really stings. I don’t think I realised how forward I was looking to seeing him defend his Mile title again until finding out this morning that he was injured, and it was not going to happen. Still, it can’t be changed, and it can’t be rushed.
For the second time this year, no one knows whether Wise Dan will ever race again or not. However this turns out, I have faith that trainer Charlie LoPresti and owner Morton Fink will do what is in his best interests. They didn’t rush his return after the colic surgery, and it’s a testament to their management of his career that he has raced from ages three to seven, and has remained a sharp Grade I level competitor this year.
Get well soon, Wise Dan.