We had an amazing weekend at Old Friends.
Saturday was Wise Dan Day!
Thanks to the generosity of Charlie and Amy LoPresti, the two-time Horse of the Year made a personal appearance at Old Friends’ party in his honor to benefit our retirees.
For many of his fans it was as much a reunion as a celebration of his greatness. Dan’s home track was Keeneland, just down the road. In his four-year race career he often thrilled us there and at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
As Saturday approached we’d sold many tickets. Our anticipation grew. At last, the day arrived. Worries about rain dispelled under a bright summer sky. At 1:30, as the 1:00 tour was visiting Game On Dude and Little Mike, up the drive rolled the LoPrestis’ trailer. And who was gazing out the window but the champion himself.
Little Mike raised his head, looking at him as if to say, “Hey, about that 2012 Male Turf Championship award…” Wise Dan and Little Mike never raced each other since they specialized in different distances, but they did meet briefly at a ceremony in the Churchill Downs paddock honoring 2012 Breeders’ Cup winners Wise Dan (Turf Mile), Little Mike (Turf), Groupie Doll (Filly & Mare Sprint), and Fort Larned (Classic). But this Saturday Wise Dan had places to go and people to meet. He rolled on up the hill.
He unloaded, got comfortably settled in, and at 2:00 the gate opened and the party began.
As you can see, at 12 years old Wise Dan is absolutely superb. Three other qualities about this horse stand out immediately and powerfully. His intelligence, his strong bond with his trainer Charlie and Amy with whom he makes his permanent home (as does his multiple graded stakes winning half-brother, Successful Dan), and his remarkable blend of high spirits and kindness.
In case you missed his race career and wonder what all the fuss is about, get this:
Wise Dan (Wiseman’s Ferry – Lisa Danielle by Wolf Power (SAF)) was bred (2007) and raced by Morton Fink and trained by Charlie LoPresti. He was American Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013. He also took Champion Turf Male and Older Dirt Male honors in both those years. That’s six Eclipse Championship awards in all.
He broke his maiden at Turfway in his second start, won an allowance race at Churchill Downs, then went to Keeneland for his first stakes win in the Phoenix (G3) in October 2010. (I was there and bet on him. I never saw him go off at long odds again.) At 4 he won the Firecracker Handicap (G2) at Churchill (also in the field was future OF retiree Lubash). That year Wise Dan also won the Presque Isle Downs Mile, Fayette Stakes (G2) and Clark Handicap (G2). At five he won the Ben Ali (G3), Fourstardave Handicap (G2), Woodbine Mile (G1), Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) over Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. At 6 he won the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1), Woodford Reserve (G1), Firecracker Handicap (G2), Fourstardave Handicap (G2), Woodbine Mile (G1), Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), and at 7 the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1), Woodford Reserve (G1), Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) and Shadwell Turf Mile (G1)—whew!
After some time with his fans outdoors, Dan and the rest of us retired to cooler quarters in the barn, where Dan continued to greet his many friends up close, posed for photos with them, and got a few carrots into the bargain.
It was great of Wise Dan and his human family to stay with us for two full hours. It made for the perfect party, never too crowded at any one time but with a steady stream of fun and interesting people for Dan to meet.
Lexington’s Channel 18 covered the event, and Wise Dan’s visit to Old Friends featured on the NBC Sports Network that night. Though other stars, even two Triple Crown winners, have come along since his racing days, Wise Dan remains a legend.
photos by Laura
Watch Wise Dan set a track record winning the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile
Wise Dan’s thrilling 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile
5 minute feature about Wise Dan from the Keeneland Magazine, Spring 2013