Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Classic! Classic! Classic!
Trainer Charles Lopresti heard that chant from fans at Keeneland Race Course on Saturday and could only laugh.
Wise Dan had produced yet another brilliant performance with a 2 ¼-length triumph in the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1), but it left him decidedly undecided about what the next step should be when the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are contested Nov. 2 and 3 at Santa Anita.
He is leaning toward keeping the 5-year-old gelding on the grass, where he has rattled off three successive victories by a combined margin of 10 1/2 lengths, and at a mile distance that he knows is well within his horse’s scope. At the same time, he was not about to rule out a possible Horse of the Year bid in the Classic.
“If it was a Churchill Downs, I’d tell you he’s going (in the Classic) tomorrow,” Lopresti said. “But it’s not at Churchill Downs.”
Lopresti expressed concerns about the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Classic, how well Wise Dan might take to the dirt there and how he might match up against West Coast star Game On Dude. At the same time, Wise Dan could not have been more impressive in reaching the winner’s circle for the fourth time in five starts this year.
WISE DAN ROLLS IN SHADWELL TURF MILE
He settled beautifully after allowing Jose Lezcano to place him within striking distance of early leader Silver Max. He easily swept to the lead when given his cue rounding the final turn. “He’s a pretty smart horse,” Lopresti said. “When he sees daylight, he knows it’s time to run.”
According to the trainer, he will not allow Horse of the Year prospects to influence his next move. “I want to do what’s right for the horse,” he said.
Other key races on Saturday helped to highlight Fall Stars Weekend at Keeneland (For a complete recap of each race, click the race name):
Mike Maker trained the champion 2-year-old male last year in Hansen. While Joha still must demonstrate championship quality in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, the certainty is that Maker has another high-caliber colt on his hands.
Although Joha took the 1 1/16-mile contest with a front-running style reminiscent of Hansen, Maker warned that the comparison should end there.
“Obviously, when he stretched out to two turns he’s showing speed, but not the speed Hansen has,” he said. “But I think he’ll go farther.”
Maker left it open as to whether the Johar colt will compete on the dirt or turf at Santa Anita.
“I’m going to say either one as long as the horse is doing well,” he said. “Take your pick.”
Joha earned his first career win on grass at Belmont Park in his third start in late May and missed by a head in finishing second in the With Anticipation Stakes (Can-G2) at the end of August. This was his second win on a synthetic surface.
“We’ve had high hopes on him from the get-go,” Maker said. “And he hasn’t let us down.”
Groupie Doll rolled to her fourth consecutive victory, dominating by 6 ½ lengths over Strike the Moon, in establishing herself as an overwhelming favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1). Trainer Buff Bradley eagerly awaits the trip to Santa Anita.
“I know she’s done very well on synthetics,” he said, “but I really think she does better on dirt.”
Her winning streak coincides with the addition of blinkers, which Bradley said are helping to improve her focus. That may have been the only ingredient the daughter of Bowman’s Band was missing.
“One thing that really helps this filly is her class,” the trainer said. “She knows how to relax. It doesn’t matter where she goes. She shows her class.”
Maybe it was the euphoria of the moment after Tapitsfly showed a different dimension by coming from off the pace, but trainer Dale Romans did not rule out testing her against males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). “We might,” he said.
Although Tapitsfly was a disappointing fourth in the Diana Stakes (G1) and sixth in the Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) in her previous two starts, she was as game as could be in the First Lady.
“If it gets into a dogfight, she’ll win it,” said Romans.
The 5-year-old Tapit mare prevailed for the third time in eight starts this year to go with a second-place finish and two third-place showings.
She has been campaigning since the first week in January. Yet she was there when Jose Lezcano asked for her best.
“For her to win a Grade 1 at this time of year, it’s special,” Romans said.
For Equibase charts from Keeneland's Saturday Fall Stars card, click here