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Wise Dan keeps win streak intact with thrilling victory in G2 Fourstardave

By Phil Janack | 08/10/2013 07:24 PM ET
Wise Dan
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan extended his win streak to eight races, collaring pacesetter King Kreesa in mid-stretch and surging clear for a 1 ¼ -length victory in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Favored at 2-5 in a field of six after the early scratch of Za Approval, Wise Dan ran one mile on the inner turf course in 1:34, .58 seconds off the track record set by L'Oiseau d'Argent in 2004, returning $2.80 for a $2 win bet.

Trained by Charles LoPresti for owner-breeder Morton Fink, Wise Dan began his win streak with a five-length victory in last year's Fourstardave. In this year's edition he carried 129 pounds, a career high, giving 11 to 14 pounds to his opponents.

"I guess [the weight] didn't hurt him too much," LoPresti said. "I was worried about it. It's only a pound more [than his last race], but I was worried about it. To prove that he's a great horse like everybody's talking about, he has to carry that weight. He has to prove that he's that good, and I think today he proved that he's a very good horse."

Wise Dan was the first reigning Horse of the Year to run at Saratoga since Rachel Alexandra, who finished second in the 2010 Personal Ensign. Breaking from post position 1 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, the 6-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding was able to save ground along the rail around the first turn.

King Kreesa was sent right out to lead through a quarter-mile in 24.24 seconds and a half in 47.48, tracked by Skyring, with Wise Dan right behind and Lea, the 9-2 second choice, on his right flank.

"The :24 and change worried me," LoPresti said. "You don't let a speed horse get out there like that. Johnny had so much confidence in him, and then they started to pick it up. They ran fast the last part of it, but I know that horse has a great kick of ours, and he proved he's a good horse today."

Wise Dan was still inside as the group began to leave the backstretch, until Velazquez moved off the rail past Lea on the turn and set his sights on King Kreesa approaching the top of the stretch. Without going to his whip,
Velazquez ranged up on a stubborn King Kreesa and drew clear.

"Perfect trip," Velazquez said. "Broke well, was in the right place following the speed in the race. After that, it was pretty easy. I knew the horse on the lead was going to take me a long way. It ended up being a nice race down the lane with the horse on the lead. I knew at the time I pulled out it was going to be a fight ... and I know my horse is a fighter. It was awesome."

Now 4-for-4 in 2013, the win improved Wise Dan's career record to 17-1-0 from 24 starts. The $300,000 winner's share pushed his career earnings to $4,464,070.

"It's not like Zenyatta or Personal Ensign where he's undefeated lifetime," LoPresti said. "I would have been OK, but I didn't want to get beat."

King Kreesa was a decisive second, 5 ¼ lengths ahead of Lea. Mr. Commons, Willyconker and Skyring completed the order of finish.

"[Wise Dan] had a serious competitor today, and as good as both horses are doing, I was really happy with my horse's effort," said Jeremiah Englehart, trainer of King Kreesa. "Obviously, [Wise Dan] is a champion."