Wise Dan, via Santa Anita’s Twitter @santaanitapark
Saturday was a thrilling day for racing fans, with great storylines on display at Santa Anita in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup. My favorites of the day were Lexington locals Groupie Doll and Wise Dan, who both repeated their victories in the Filly & Mare Sprint and the Mile, respectively. Groupie Doll, a five-year-old mare by Bowman’s Band, has been bred and raced by her owner/trainer Buff Bradley and family. The Bradleys take great care of their horses– Groupie Doll enjoyed her breaks on the farm, which she spent turned out with the hardknocking, $2-M earning gelding Brass Hat. Groupie Doll made a huge run in the 7f F&M Sprint, calling on all her class to make it to the wire first. Sadly, she’s on a plane tomorrow bound for Keeneland, where she is entered in the November sale. The Bradleys would love to keep her, but her value is too much to pass up right now…her sale could finance their racing operation for years to come. After her win, Buff announced that he would be happy to keep her in training for her new owner (if desired), to point her toward the Cigar Mile later in November. If she were to win the Cigar Mile — against the boys– it could vault her into the Horse Of The Year category. Even if she’s run her last race…it was a good one, and she certainly will go out a star.
And then there’s Dan the Man– Wise Dan, Morton Fink’s homebred by Wiseman’s Ferry, trained by Charlie LoPresti. Charlie’s as good a horseman as there is, and what else can be said about Wise Dan? A month ago, he seemed unbeatable…but then he suffered a rare loss to Silver Max in the Shadwell Turf Mile on rain-puddled Polytrack. You knew the loss was only due to the surface, but…would the real Wise Dan come back to Santa Anita? Duh, yeah. Despite being well off the pace (a good thing, as it was suicidal), Wise Dan was forced wide the whole way and determinedly struck the front in the final furlong and held strong for the win. He’s a beast. And as a 6-year-old gelding, we’ll probably see more from him next year. As of now, he’s possibly the favorite for Eclipse Award HOTY again. Go Dan!
Now, the Classic– the big race of the year. The California money was all over Game On Dude, the Bob Baffert-trained gelding who has earned a comfortable (!!) living in California. It seemed this was the Dude’s year, ridden by Mike Smith. It was a wide open field, with all 3 top finishers from last year– including winner Fort Larned, and runner up Mucho Macho Man. Mucho Macho Man is a big, lanky horse who always seems to be around in the big races, but never in the winner’s circle. Gary Stevens, in his “comeback tour” picked up the mount on Macho Man, the second time he’d ever ridden him. Then add in a couple hot three year-olds, Palace Malice and D. Wayne-trained Will Take Charge. Will Take Charge was my dark horse in this race; by Unbridled’s Song out of the fantastic mare Take Charge Lady, he’s a half-brother to Take Charge Indy, and is simply gorgeous. A big, strapping chestnut colt dressed up in chrome with a big blaze down his face…he’s fancy, and he’s just finally growing into himself. Could he get it done against the older campaigners?
It was a thrilling race with Mucho Macho Man eeking out the win, a head-bob photo finish with late-charging Will Take Charge. Gary Stevens gave the ride of his life, keeping Macho Man in the clear (he hates kickback) and saving just enough horse to hang on for the wire. Believe it or not, it’s the first Breeders’ Cup Classic win for the Hall of Famer; it caps off a spectacular year for 50-year-old Stevens, who won the BC Distaff on Friday with Beholder, and the Preakness earlier this year with Oxbow.
The Europeans had a fairly nice time as well; the Coolmore conglomerate’s Declaration of War made his first start on dirt in the Classic, and finished a well-earned third by half a length. And, as usual, the Euros dominated the turf races. Trainer Aiden O’Brien won earlier in the day with another Coolmore horse, Magician, in the mile and a half BC Turf. James Wigan’s four-year-old filly, Dank, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, took the Filly & Mare Turf, and both divisions of the Juvenile Turf went to horses from across the pond.
The one other turf race that stayed “home” went to defending champion Mizdirection. Owned by famed sports radio host Jim Rome, the 5-year-old gray mare by Mizzen Mast beat the boys once again to take the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. That makes three repeat winners this year, of their respective races…plus Beholder, the 2012 Juvenile Filly, who won the 2013 Distaff.