We have finally entered the stretch run of the 2016 thoroughbred racing season. The finish line is clearly in sight, as we approach the 32nd edition of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Divisional honors will be at stake for some of America’s finest racehorses. As we prepare to scour our Racing Forms to determine who our favorites will be on Nov. 4-5, 2016, we will also share stories of champions past.
Perhaps, you fancy the “The Race of the Decade” — the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which Sunday Silence held off Easy Goer in a thrilling stretch drive. Or maybe you favor the 1991 running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race that left many breathless when Arazi shot past 12 horses in an eighth of a mile to astonish the crowd and give hope that a potential superstar had been born. Last year, we were excited to watch American Pharoah confirm his greatness with an emphatic victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
There are so many great moments and horses in Breeders’ Cup history that every story is special.
In the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile, Tepin will join an elite list of two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winners with a victory in this year’s edition of the race. One of the elite horses she is attempting to join is a horse who was a dominant presence on the American turf and stands as one of the best milers in Breeders’ Cup history — Wise Dan.
Wise Dan is a horse I grew to love because of his blue-collar efforts at racetracks across the US and Canada. He was a horse that could run anywhere on any surface, which he showed with a victory on dirt in the Grade I Clarke Handicap and close second-place finish in the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, also on a dirt track. Wise Dan also won races over a synthetic surface at Turfway Park (where he broke his maiden), Presque Isle Downs and Keeneland (where he set a track record in the Grade III Ben Ali).
But that’s enough talk about his dirt and all-weather record, let’s talk turf!
Wise Dan was unstoppable on the green. His turf accomplishments are legendary:
- Two-time Breeders’s Cup Mile champion (2012-2013).
- Two-Time Horse of the Year (2012-2013).
- First horse to win Eclipse Awards in the Champion Male Turf Horse, Champion Older Male and American Horse of the Year categories two years in a row (2012-2013).
- 15 victories in 16 starts on the turf.
- 10 Grade I turf victories and five Grade II turf victories .
- Won 14 turf races in a row to end his career.
- $7,552,920 career earnings.
- Fastest Breeders’ Cup Mile and a course record at Santa Anita with a time of 1:31.78 (2012).
The 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile was a statement race for Wise Dan. Frankel was destroying foes in Europe and the world proclaimed him as the best turf horse in generations. While these claims might be true, the great question was could Wise Dan hang with Frankel? We were never fortunate enough to find out the answer to that question, but Europe did send over a racehorse who had been runner-up to Frankel on four different occasions, Excelebration.
Wise Dan’s win against Excelebration did not help put An end to the banter between “Team Frankel” and “Team Dan,” but it did help solidify Wise Dan’s status as America’s top horse and one of the best milers in the world. He put an exclamation mark on his victory by setting a course record and sending Excelebration home with an out-of-the-money finish.
The following season, in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile, Wise Dan did not have everything go his way. He came out of the gate awkwardly and stumbled a bit before gaining his bearings and settling in to sit back of a record pace being set by Obviously. The only question would be what kind of trouble he would encounter when he was set down for the drive. Jose Lezcano, filling in nicely for the injured John Velazquez (Wise Dan’s regular rider), guided him home to another impressive Breeders’ Cup Mile victory.
In 2014, Charlie Lopresti, Wise Dan’s trainer, was anticipating a third shot at the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Unfortunately for us, the racing gods decided to give another horse a chance in the Mile and forced Wise Dan to retire before he had the opportunity.
What had been one of the greatest runs in thoroughbred history had come to an end. However, what he was able to accomplish will never be forgotten and the greatness of Wise Dan will live on in our memories.