The 2012 Horse Of The Year, Wise Dan, has now been to the post three times in 2013. His comeback effort off his Breeders' Cup Mile win was a score at Keeneland in the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile five months after the win at Santa Anita. He followed that up with a Derby Day score in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, where he won easily by nearly five lengths. Finally, this past weekend, Wise Dan overcame somewhat of a troubled trip to win the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap in a driving rainstorm at Churchill Downs.
The impost of 128 pounds for Wise Dan wasn't the only obstacle that he had to overcome. If you watch the replay, which is available here: http://www.drf.com/news/churchill-downs-wise-dan-has-options-after-firecracker-win, you will notice that Wise Dan never had a step of clear running until he made the lead in the stretch. He was kept boxed in by Lea and Brian Hernandez Jr. all the way to the top of the stretch. Wise Dan finally simply bulled his way through an exceedingly narrow opening on the hedge (in fact, he made contact with the hedge itself while in the process of taking the lead) and moved away to win like the champion that he is.
So, with Wise Dan now 3 for 3 in his 2013 campaign, he will go on to Saratoga, according to trainer Charlie LoPresti. The DRF article on the win in the Firecracker says that one of two turf spots, the Fourstardave or the Bernard Baruch are likely for Wise Dan. However, LoPresti did not rule out trying the dirt in the Whitney or the Woodward.
In a season where there appears to be a dearth of likely candidates for Horse Of The Year at this stage, there are certainly very strong odds that Wise Dan could earn a repeat of that crown in 2013. LoPresti appears to think, and correctly so, that running in and winning one of the Grade 1 dirt races at The Spa would continue to enhance Wise Dan's resume' while allowing him to continue to point for the Breeders' Cup Mile in November, as opposed to the Classic.
Personally, I think in a year with not much else standing out on the HOTY front, as long as Wise Dan remains unbeaten, he will be almost a certainty to win the title again. If you think about it, there are no three-year-old stand-outs following the Triple Crown trail. Yes, Oxbow probably ran the three best races of the series, winning the Grade 1 Preakness, but he still has quite a long way to go to get into the HOTY conversation. Of the other likely candidates entering the year, Ron The Greek has only an ungraded win in four 2013 starts and while Game On Dude is 3 for 3 this season himself, how many times can you keep beating Clubhouse Ride before it gets tedious?
In a perfect world, yes, Wise Dan would run in the Breeders' Cup Classic and go head-to-head with Game On Dude to settle the score on the racetrack at the end of the season. However, how many times do we actually get to have that perfect world scenario? If Wise Dan elects to go in the Breeders' Cup Mile again and if he remains undefeated heading into that race, then I believe he should remain the once and future king should he win it again.
Be sure to check out my Twitter Page: @They_Are_Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!