Much like Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association need marquee talent to sell their sports, the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships need the final weekend of preps to be carried by thoroughbreds with “name” recognition to hold serve. Without them, casual sports fans and major sports news outlets will not consider the World Championship weekend worthy of consideration or mention.
|Wise Dan capturing the 2012 Breeders' Cup Mile, John Velazquez up.|
Reigning two-time Horse of the Year WISE DAN is the equine version of Derek Jeter, Jim Brown, and Michael Jordan…once-in-a-generation athletes that give gravitas to their respective sports.
|Wise Dan and John Velazquez.|
A winner of a remarkable 22 races in a 30 race career, including a near-perfect 14 of 15 starts on the turf, seven year old gelding WISE DAN is a throwback. He’s the sort of race horse that deserves the accolades afforded great geldings such as SEABISCUIT and FOREGO during the salad days of the sport. He’s shown himself beatable on rare occasions, only to recover winning form in brilliant fashion leaving calloused horseplayers smiling in respect as they tear up tickets that were fashioned to defeat him.
|Wise Dan winning the 2013 BC Mile.|
Adding to his lore is WISE DAN’s recovery from at least career threatening, possibly near-fatal, colic surgery earlier this year. For a lesser horse, surviving to live out life frolicking on a farm would be considered success. WISE DAN will not enjoy dates with well bred broodmares when he runs his final race. Is it folly to think that Morton Fink’s pride and joy senses his legend will be his accomplishes on the track? Perhaps one day, next to the term “race horse” there will be a picture of WISE DAN.
|Wise Dan in 2013, Jose Lezcano fills in for injured John Velazquez.|
‘DAN didn’t just acquit himself well in his return to the races, he did what he usually does…win. Under the patient and skillful guidance of Charles Lopresti, WISE DAN overcame the post-surgical effects to capture the Grade II Bernard Baruch at historic Saratoga in upstate New York on August 30. The way he carried jockey John Velazquez into the breach of competition, then dug deep to fend off OPTIMIZER, was remarkable. His vanquished foe received a 11 pound weight break but was defeated by the champion in a time just .17 seconds off the track record. The result left the thoroughbred racing industry agog. If ever WISE DAN would have been forgiven for a loss, it was under those challenging circumstances.
There are select horses we recall in a lifetime for remarkable accomplishments. Often it’s after-the-fact, because these true champions make possible what’s unfathomable for others. They aren’t remembered because they offered tremendous value and windfall payoffs. WISE DAN makes the cost of admission, inflated beer prices, and the losing wagers look like value.
Try to beat him if you feel there’s a valuable alternative…it’s what the horse racing is about. If he defeats you, again, smile and try to enjoy having watched a true champion.