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Sep 20, 2013

Up the Backstretch: Wise Dan ups the ante

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

( - For a while there, it seemed as if the race to the Horse of the Year award was going to be nothing but an easy victory for Game On Dude.

However, Sunday at Woodbine Race Course, defending champion Wise Dan proved he had a lot left in the tank to be able to retain his title and more.

Trained by Charles LoPresti, Wise Dan had been winning his races, but they weren't by impressive margins the way Game On Dude was the last couple of times.

Game On Dude most recently won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar by 8 1/4 lengths, which came after his decisive victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup. The 6-year- old gelding, trained by Bob Baffert, joined Lava Man as the only horses to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic in the same year.

Wise Dan, owned by Morton Fink, won his first four starts of the year, but not always in the way expected of a Horse of the Year.

Sunday in the Woodbine Mile, Wise Dan reaffirmed his position as reigning Horse of the Year with a record-setting performance in the eight- furlong turf stakes.

"I don't have the right words to tell you how much it means to me. He is a super horse, but he's there because Charlie takes care of him," Fink said after Wise Dan won the Mile for the second straight year. "When you handle a horse that can run like this the temptation is to run him every couple of weeks. He is a money machine. It will never happen as long as Charlie and I have anything to do with him."

The gelding posted a track record time of 1:31.75 as he defeated his rivals by 3 1/2 lengths.

"I compare it to the horse I sat on, Leroidesanimaux, when he won over here, but I always said he was a freak," said winning jockey John Velazquez. "This one (Wise Dan) is a much bigger freak than the other one. He's a much better horse, always wins. Horse of the Year, you can't change that.

"The only thing that kind of concerned me a little bit, I think I did a little too much with him in the post parade. He was kind of quiet and then he broke well and I put him right behind the other two horses (Excaper and Dimension) and he got rank with me behind the other two horses and I thought, 'Come on, buddy, please come off the bridle a little bit.' Once he did that, I waited until the five-sixteenths pole and let him easy out from those two horses and as soon as he saw the wire, he just went on."

Wise Dan could start one more time in the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, a race he won last year as well prior to winning the Breeders' Cup Mile.

"He's a great horse. I mean, he is a dream come true. He makes us very proud," said LoPresti, who has saddled the last three winners of the Woodbine Mile. "What he does for the fans and what he does for us, all my team that's worked with him, Mr. Fink is the breeder, the mare, all the awards we got for breeding and the mare. He is just a dream come true. What a wonderful horse."

The Horse of the Year contest will come down to the Breeders' Cup races on Nov. 2 with, unfortunately. Wise Dan and Game On Dude racing in separate events again.

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