Wise Dan aims to retain Turf Mile crown

Wise Dan - favourite for repeat win

Wise Dan - favourite for repeat win

Europe’s challenge in the turf race for the Breeders’ Cup Mile comprises Richard Hannon’s Olympic Glory and Aidan O’Brien’s Cristoforo Colombo. They face a strong home team, headed by last year’s winner Wise Dan.

Hannon took the principled decision earlier this week that he would not give Olympic Glory a dose of Lasix before the race. He has long opposed the use of Lasix in racing, and aside from that, to use drugs on a horse called Olympic Glory would have a deep irony to it. He’ll be the only European runner over the course of the two days who could use Lasix, but won’t. The Juvenile events remain medication free this year, and there are half a dozen European horses running in them.

I reckon readers will know a fair bit about the Hannon and O’Brien horses, but what about Wise Dan? He goes into the race as the US Horse of the Year, and having won it 12 months ago. He has a record of 18 wins from 24 starts, 14 of them in Graded stakes races. He has seven Grade 1 successes.

Trainer Charlie Lopresti’s chestnut gelding hardly sprang a surprise at Santa Anita last year; he was 9/4 second favourite for the Turf Mile.

The surprise about this horse came in his prep race for tomorrow, when he was beaten, only a second defeat in ten races going back to October 2011. Lopresti sent his horse on an almost identical programme this year as last. He had a warm up race in the spring, the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga in August, and the Rico Woodbine Mile a month later. These all went without mishap.

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A year ago he took in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs and lost by a head to Ron The Greek, so this time round Lopresti skipped that race.

Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile was the final run for Wise Dan before the Breeders’ Cup. The race was misnamed this year, as torrential rain flooded the track and it was switched to the Polytrack. That shouldn’t have been a problem for Wise Dan, as he’s won on both surfaces in the past. But an outside draw and a horse that slipped the rest of the field early on, conspired to bring about a one-length defeat.

Lopresti wasn’t too downhearted, though. He said just after the race, “Those were not ideal conditions yesterday. I was a little disappointed that he lost, but he never stopped trying and was gaining on the winner (Silver Max). I looked at the Trakus (stats) after the race and it showed he ran 40 feet farther than the winner. That computes to losing about four lengths. I was more disappointed for the horse that he lost. I think he knows he got beat and he’s pretty mad about it.”

If that’s the case, Wise Dan will want to put the record straight and get back on the winning trail.

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