(Originally written for Followhorseracing.com)
Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan continued his winning streak in record-setting fashion Sunday, winning the Grade 1 $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile in 1:31.75. The new course record was the Morton Fink homebred’s ninth consecutive win and fifth on the year, all which have come with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez at the reins for trainer Charlie LoPresti.
Sent off as the 1-to-5 favorite, Wise Dan stalked Excaper and Dimension early through splits of :23.15, :45.44 and 1:08.5 then the champion took command in the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths.
“The only thing that kind of concerned me a little bit, I think I did a little too much with him in the post parade,” said Velazquez. “He was kind of quiet and then he broke well and I put him right behind the other two horses [Excaper and Dimension] and he got rank with me behind the other two horses, and I thought, ‘Come on buddy, please come off the bridle a little bit.’ Once he did that, I waited until the five-sixteenths pole and let him ease out from those two horses and as soon as he saw the wire he just went on.”
Za Approval finished second and Trade Storm was third, but the Woodbine Mile belonged to Wise Dan for a second-straight year.
The Woodbine Mile was also a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, which means Wise Dan earned himself a free trip to Santa Anita Park to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 2.
“He’s a great horse. I mean he is a dream come true. He makes us very proud,” LoPresti said. “What he does for the fans and what he does for us, all my team that’s worked with him, Mr. Fink is the breeder, the mare, all the awards we got for breeding and the mare. He is just a dream come true. What a wonderful horse.”
WISE DAN EASILY WON THE WOODBINE MILE IN HIS RETURN TO THE TRACK
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
While Sunday’s victory marked the second consecutive Woodbine Mile for Wise Dan, it was the third straight victory for LoPresti, who won in 2011 with long shot Turallure.
Wise Dan’s record now sits at 18 wins and one second from 25 starts with career earnings of $5,043,610. If he races again before the Breeders’ Cup, it will likely be in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes – a race he won in 2012 – on Oct. 5 at Keeneland.
“I don’t have the right words to tell you how much it means to me. He is a super horse but he’s there because Charlie takes care of him,” said Fink. “When you handle a horse that can run like this the temptation is to run him every couple of weeks. He is a money machine. It will never happen as long as Charlie and I have anything to do with him.”
Stella Perdomo’s Forte Dei Marmi was able to hold off stablemate Perfect Timber to grab a win in the Grade 1, $300,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, also at Woodbine Sunday. Eurico Da Silva was aboard the Roger Attfield-trained 7-year-old gelding, who completed 1 ½ miles on the firm turf in 2:28.46, a neck in front of Perfect Timber.
“He’s at the best he’s ever been,” said Attfield. “He’s done it now three times in a row in three different situations. He’s a tough little horse and the way he is right now, he’s tough to beat. We gave him a good run down the lane with my other horse [Perfect Timber].”
This marked the third consecutive graded stakes win for Forte Dei Marmi, who has 10 wins from 32 career races with career earnings of $1,026,094.
FORTE DEI MARMI’S CONNECTIONS CELEBRATE AFTER THE WIN
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Northern Bloodstock’s Minakshi also earned a trip to the Breeders’ Cup by taking the Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian Stakes on Sunday at Woodbine. The Canadian Stakes was the first win on North American soil for the French-bred Minakshi, who was ridden by Luis Contreras for trainer Michael Matz. At odds of 7.10-to-1, Minakshi took the lead in the stretch and crossed the finish line a half-length ahead of stablemate Colonial Flag.
“I got a nice staking trip,” Contreras said. “My filly relaxed really nicely for me. Michael [Matz] told me in the morning that the horse can be on the lead but she relaxes better, and she relaxed for me nice. I just angled outside [at] the quarter pole, and she just gave me everything.”
Minakshi has now earned $339,531 with five wins from 18 starts. She earned a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 1.
On Saturday at Belmont Park, Martin Schwartz’s Alterite took her North American debut in the Grade 1, $500,000 Garden City Stakes.
John Velazquez was aboard the Chad Brown trainee, who completed 1 1/8 miles on the turf in 1:50.55. Schwartz purchased Alterite privately in France last year after the Breeders’ Cup. She was shipped to the U.S. shortly after finishing sixth in the Group 1 French Oaks on June 16.
“I think she ran terrific,” said Brown. “She came over to me in real good shape from her previous trainer, and she just settled in beautifully. Each week she’s been here, she’s adapted more. She’s a high-strung horse, and I thought she handled herself in the race very well. She should improve from here.”
Early pacesetter and favorite Discreet Marq held on for second with Concise finishing third.
The win was the fourth in 10 career starts for Alterite, who was awarded $300,000 on Saturday to boost career earnings to $508,797.
ALTERITE WAS IMPRESSIVE IN HER AMERICAN DEBUT
Photo courtesy of NYRA
“I’m very happy,” Schwartz said. “She got beat three inches in the Saint Alary and was the only horse to run in all three legs of the French Triple Crown for fillies. Mr. Brown has quite a way with the European horses. She’ll stay a mile and a quarter as she did in France. The sky’s the limit, as they say.”
Conquest Stables’s My Conquestadory, a filly, bested the boys to take the $200,000 Summer Stakes Saturday at Woodbine for trainer Mark Casse with jockey Eurico Da Silva aboard. The Summer Stakes, which was a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, was the career debut for the 2-year-old Artie Schiller filly.
“I didn’t think about losing the race. It never came to my mind that she could be beat,” Da Silva said. “I had great confidence in her, and the whole [Casse] team said how nice she is. She’s a great filly.”
My Conquestadory covered a mile on the turf in 1:34.81 to win by 3 ¼ lengths.
In Saturday’s other Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, Harlequin Ranches’ Llanarmon took the Grade 2, $200,000 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine. Emma-Jayne Wilson guided the Roger Attfield trainee to a three-quarter-length victory in 1:35.89 going a mile on the turf. The marked the first career win for the 2-year-old Sky Mesa filly, who had previously only recorded a third-place effort in a maiden race also at Woodbine.
“I was really happy with my position,” said Wilson. “When I called on her, despite the activity, she was really strong. She stalled, had a look at everything, regained her focus and finished up.”
Llanarmon will be rewarded with a free trip to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on Nov. 1.