WISE DAN WORKS TOWARD FIRECRACKER, WEIGHTED AT 128
Horse of the Year Wise Dan breezed a “bullet” half-mile on the Polytrack at Keeneland on Saturday in :46.20 and later was named the 128-pound high weight for the 23rd running of the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (Grade II) at Churchill Downs on June 29 by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman.
“He worked really easily and went in hand without being asked to do too much,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said. “He’s doing as well as I could ask.
“The plan is still to go to the Firecracker, but I’ll need to discuss the weights with (owner/breeder) Mr. (Mort) Fink.”
Wise Dan has won his last six starts and five straight Grade I races. In his two starts of 2013, he won the Maker’s 46 Mile (GI) at Keeneland and then recorded a 4 ¾-length victory in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) on Kentucky Derby Day. Overall, he has won 15 of his 22 starts and has a bankroll of $4,059,631.
A 6-year-old gelding by Wiseman’s Ferry, Wise Dan won the 2011 Firecracker at odds of more than 14-1 in his turf debut. No horse has won the Firecracker twice.
Weighted next at 123 pounds is Little Mike, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI). A 12-time winner with earnings of more than $3 million, Little Mike has finished off the board in his two starts this year, both of which came in Dubai.
Priscilla Vaccarezza’s Little Mike is not expected to enter the Firecracker and instead will point to the United Nations (GI) at Monmouth Park on July 6.
The next two high weights at 120 pounds are Za Approval and Optimizer.
Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Za Approval is coming off back-to-back wins in the Appleton (GIII) and Red Bank (GIII) and Calumet Farm’s Optimizer, a three-time Grade III winner, most recently finished second behind Point of Entry in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (GI) at Belmont Park.
Other than Wise Dan, horses known to be under consideration for the Firecracker (with trainer and weight) include Corporate Jungle (Tom Proctor, 117), Lea (Al Stall Jr., 117), Daddy Nose Best (Steve Asmussen, 116), Seruni (Phil Oliver, 115), Laurie’s Rocket (D. Wayne Lukas, 114) and Dimension-GB (Conor Murphy, 113).
Entries for the Firecracker Handicap will be taken Wednesday, June 26.
Three-time Grade I winner Dullahan breezed five furlongs on the fast main track in :59.60 on Saturday morning for trainer Dale Romans. The work was the third fastest of 38 at the distance. Most recently 11th in the Dubai World Cup (GI), Dullahan is being pointed to the Arlington Handicap (GIII) on July 13. …
Silver Max, a six-time stakes winner with earnings approaching $1 million, breezed five furlongs on the main track in 1:00.80. The work ranked eighth fastest of 38 at the distance. …
Three-time Grade III winner Optimizer breezed a half-mile in :48.20 on the main track for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Optimizer most recently finished second behind Point of Entry in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (GI) at Belmont Park.
DOWN THE STRETCH
Conquest Two Step became the first winner for his sire, Two Step Salsa, when he scored a two-length victory in Friday’s fourth race. A 2-year-old dark bay or brown colt, Conquest Two Step exited the race in good order, according to assistant trainer Norman Casse, son of trainer Mark Casse.
“He walked the shedrow this morning and we had to walk him with a lip shank because he was bouncing around and was ready to go again,” Norman Casse said.
Mark Casse said via text that no plans have been made for his next start.
FAMILY FUN DAY ON SUNDAY
Churchill Downs will host Family Fun Day Presented by Kroger on the Plaza Balcony every Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the 38-day Spring Meet. Kiddos age 12 and younger are invited to enjoy games, crafts and visits from Churchill Downs’ popular mascot Churchill Charlie. This week’s special activities include “Cookies & Canvas,” story time and a tour of the Kentucky Derby Museum Gardens to visit 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Winston the miniature pony. The first of 10 races on Sunday is 12:45 p.m. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club, located inside the Gate 10 entrance, also entertains children age 12 and under on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed when Downs After Dark occurs on June 15, June 22 and June 29). The “Kids Zone” is dedicated to providing fun for the youngsters at Churchill Downs, but all children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.