Two time horse of the year Wise Dan overcame some adversity in winning the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga on Saturday. It was his first race since Kentucky Derby and just a couple of months removed from emergency colic surgery.
Wise Dan has won all three of his 2014 starts but it definitely hasn’t been an easy road. He took the victory in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mile at Keeneland in March followed by another win in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He wouldn’t race again until Saturday–he had emergency colic surgery just over three months ago but characteristic of his greatness not only recovered but found a way to win in Saturday’s Bernard Baruch.
Given the tough road that Wise Dan had traveled over the summer it was understandable that trainer Charlie LoPresti and jockey John Velasquez were highly emotional after the win. LoPresti shared the sentiments of just about everyone in attendance at Saratoga: ‘This horse is unbelievable. He should get Horse of the Year right now just for everything he has been through. I don’t think there is any horse who could overcome what he has overcome. He is my Horse of the Year.’
After being life or death on an operating table in May the problems he encountered on race day seem almost irrelevant. Wise Dan reared up in the gate before the race, throwing rider Velasquez. That didn’t appear to faze either Velasquez or Wise Dan, who went off as a 4-5 favorite. Thanks to some good riding by Velasquez he was in the lead in the late stretch and gutted out a win over 29-1 longshot Optimizer.
Even the trainers of horses beaten by Wise Dan were happy to have him back including Todd Pletcher: “He is a terrific horse. It’s a real credit to the job Charlie has done with him to bring him back after the colic surgery. He is a great horse, great for the game. I love to see horses like that compete.”
That puts Wise Dan back on track for a Breeders’ Cup run. He’ll likely race in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland before taking at shot at either the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Mile.