Wise Dan dismantles the field in Woodbine Mile
A few rivals jumped out quickly from the gate, but soon conceded the early lead to European shipper Worthadd through an opening quarter in :23 3/5 on turf upgraded to firm. Artic Fern moved up to vie with Worthadd through a half-mile in :46 4/5. Worthadd shrugged off a tiring Artic Fern on the far turn, but he was the proverbial sitting duck.
All the while, Wise Dan had been on cruise control behind the leaders in third, just waiting for the moment to strike. High-class European Cityscape was stalking in fourth on the outside, and likewise biding his time until the field swung into the stretch. The body language hinted that Wise Dan had much more in reserve than Cityscape, and the overwhelming favorite did not deceive.
Wise Dan easily swept to the front turning into the stretch, and after getting six furlongs in 1:10 1/5, left his rivals standing. While Cityscape gave chase, he could not get close to matching the winner's speed or power. Instead, Cityscape found himself in a race for runner-up honors with Hunters Bay, who rallied willingly to overtake the European.
Wise Dan was alone in his triumphal progress through the final furlong, stopping the teletimer in 1:34 and furnishing mutuels of $3.10, $2.70 and $2.10.
"What a nice horse," Velazquez said. "For a horse to do this race after race and come back the way he does things is incredible.
"I think he's learned the more he's races. He's learning. He's allowing me to get him back a little bit and get him relaxed behind the horses. When he does that he is a much better horse.
"Today, he broke out of there nice, got a hold of me and kind of got him back a bit. When those two horses went, he actually relaxed really, really well behind them. I was very happy the way he was doing it."
Runner-up Hunters Bay bested Cityscape by one length, and both of their riders paid tribute to Wise Dan.
"I could see Johnny V. sitting so quiet on Wise Dan," said Emma-Jayne Wilson, who was elated with Hunters Bay's terrific turf debut. "I thought we'd have a hard time to catch him, but he (Hunters Bay) gave it everything he could."
"He's obviously a good horse," Cityscape's jockey James Doyle said of Wise Dan. "I traveled up to his quarters and he (Velazquez) gave him a squeeze and he was gone. It was impressive."
Doyle added that he didn't think that Cityscape fired his best.
"I don't know whether he was on song today," his regular rider noted. "He didn't travel as well as he did in Meydan that night (winning the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free) or like he did in France (when second in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois), so we'll have to get him back and see. He just felt like he wasn't the same."
Riding the River crossed the wire in fourth, and next came Dance and Dance, Big Band Sound, Worthadd, Hollinger and Artic Fern.
Wise Dan is now a Grade 1 winner on both turf and dirt, having captured last fall's Clark Handicap on the traditional surface at Churchill Downs. The five-year-old gelding has compiled a mark of 18-11-1-0, $2,011,638.
Unraced as a juvenile, Wise Dan showed ability when winning four of six starts at three. During that 2010 campaign, he captured his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland and finished a creditable sixth, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Wise Dan proved a triple-surface threat in 2011, winning the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap in his turf debut, and adding the Presque Isle Mile on Tapeta, before romping in the Grade 2 Fayette over Keeneland's Polytrack and adding the Clark trophy.
His 2012 debut was scintillating -- a 10 1/2-length conquest of the Grade 3 Ben Ali, in a track-record time of 1:46.63 on the Keeneland Polytrack. Wise Dan returned to Churchill for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 16, only to lose by a head after a tough trip. That is his only loss in his past six races. Wise Dan reverted to turf for the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap August 11 at Saratoga, where he posted a five-length demolition job, and came back to dominate at Woodbine.
Lopresti sounded inclined to stay on turf for the Breeders' Cup Mile, but left the door ajar.
"Mr. Fink and I will talk about and we'll talk to Johnny (Velazquez) about it," the trainer said.
"I said something to Johnny about the Classic and he said, 'The grass is good, but we won't rule the other one out (Breeders' Cup Classic) as well.' We will see how he comes out and take it from there. I think he is better on synthetic and turf. I honestly do."
The Kentucky-bred is by Wiseman's Ferry and out of the winning Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle. He is a half-brother to multiple Grade 2 victor Successful Dan, who set a new Churchill track record when taking the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 4. Another half-sibling, stakes winner Our Royal Dancer, is herself the dam of Argentinean Group 2-placed Bailando Voy.
Lisa Danielle is in turn a half-sister to Grade 1-placed Carsona, who has produced Grade 2 victor Siphon City. This is the family of German Group 1-winning highweight Scalo, who finished fourth in Sunday's Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf at Woodbine, and further back, French champion, classic winner and noted sire *Val de Loir as well as dual classic heroine and Irish champion *Valoris II.
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