*Corrected distance of race in second graph
Owner-breeder Morton Fink's reigning two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan survived a tense stretch duel with Seek Again to prevail by a head and become the second two-time winner of the $559,100 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Grade I).
Trained by Charlie LoPresti and ridden John Velazquez, Wise Dan covered the mile and an eighth on a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:47.73. Wise Dan joins Einstein (BRZ) (2008-09) as the only repeat winner in the 28 runnings of the race.
Breaking from the inside post position, Wise Dan was away alerting but quickly wrangled to the outside of Bright Thought and Skyring. Wise Dan tracked those two through fractions of :24.17, :48.05 and 1:12.38 before moving after the leaders on the far turn.
At the head of the stretch, Wise Dan moved to the outside of the pacesetters while Joel Rosario took Seek Again to the inside. The two hooked up at the eighth pole and dueled to the wire with Wise Dan narrowly prevailing.
The victory was worth $329,310 and increased Wise Dan's earnings to $6,802,920 with a record of 29-21-2-0. The 7-year-old gelding has won 14 of his past 16 starts and is four-for-four over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Wise Dan is a Kentucky-bred son of Wiseman's Ferry out of the Wolf Power (SAF) mare Lisa Danielle.
Wise Dan returned $3, $2.40 and $2.10. Seek Again paid $4.80 and $3.80 and finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of Boisterous who paid $3.80 to show under Javier Castellano.
Kaigun finished a nose back in fourth and was followed in order by Admiral Kitten, Guys Reward, Moro Tap, Finnegans Wake, Bright Thought and Skyring.
WOODFORD RESERVE TURF CLASSIC QUOTES
John Velazquez, rider of Wise Dan (winner) – "Going past the wire the first time, he broke with a long hold (on the reins) but when the other horse came to him on the outside, he got real aggressive and I had to really fight him back. I didn't want to do that because he threw his head up but I had no choice. I thought I won it at the wire but I thought the same thing yesterday and I finished third. He hasn't been training as good as he was last year. He ran a great at Keeneland (Maker's 46 Mile), ran a great race here today at 1 1 1/8 miles but he was definitely tired."
Charlie LoPresti, trainer of Wise Dan (winner) – "He was pretty tough going a mile-and-an-eighth but Johnny knows how to get him back. He wrangled him back, it wasn't very pretty, but he got him in the spot where he needed to be. If he wouldn't have done that he would've been on the lead and would've seen daylight and he might've gone a little bit too fast up front. He needed to be tucked in. We thought second or third and that's where he put him. When I saw the 48 I thought we were in real good shape where he was sitting.
"I was worried about Bill Mott's horse (Seek Again). He's a nice horse, coming off a Grade I win in California, and (Joel) Rosario was on his heels the whole way when he moved. But he won't let a horse go by him. If they get to him he's not going to let them go by. Like in the Shadwell, he had trouble catching one because it just didn't work out for him, but once he makes the lead it's going to be tough for a horse to pass him. Maybe when he gets older it won't be but right now...
"The way he has trained and the way he's done, I would say, at this point in time, he's better than he was last year. This was a little bit stiffer group of horses. Nothing against the horses last year, but with Point of Entry out it was pretty much his race last year.
"If it's up to me I'll wait until Saratoga but we'll see how he comes out. We'll watch the handicap division. I thought a little bit about the Stephen Foster just because of yesterday's race (the Alysheba Stakes, in which Will Take Charge was upset by Moonshine Mullin) and I haven't heard much about the other horses. I doubt we would do it but it's something to at least consider.
"Horses like that are hard to find. They're true warriors and they don't want to get beat and they know where the wire is and they know how to win. He's just that kind of horse."
Joel Rosario, rider of Seek Again (second) – "There was no doubt I was going inside. I'm trying to beat Wise Dan and I've got to take any edge I can get. If I go outside, I have no chance. The hole came open and he went. He was running hard. My horse is a really nice horse. So is Wise Dan, of course. But we gave him a try. Maybe we'll try him again."
Bill Mott, trainer of Seek Again (second) – "It was a great ride (by Joel Rosario). It was a great ride. No complaints. We've got to decide if we're going to give him a try in the Manhattan. It's a mile and quarter. He won the Hollywood Derby at a mile and a quarter.''
Javier Castellano, rider of Boisterous (third) – "I had a beautiful trip. Perfect. This horse ran a wonderful race. We're running with the very best."
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Boisterous (third) – "He ran really well. He just couldn't quite get there. I was pleased with the trip and with his effort."
Churchill Downs, the world's most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America's greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 3, 2014. The 2014 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs is scheduled for April 26-June 29. The track has hosted the Breeders' Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.