EARLY LOOK AT SUNDAY’S RICOH WOODBINE MILE (6)
Dimension/Riverside Bloodstock LLC/Conor Murphy/David Moran
Excaper/Richard Kaster & Frederick Wieting/Ian Black/Luis Contreras
Riding the River/Dominion Bloodstock, HGHR & Linmac Farms/Dave Cotey/Todd Kabel
Trade Storm/Qatar Racing Ltd./David Simcock/TBA
Wise Dan/Morton Fink/Charles LoPresti/John Velazquez
Za Approval/Live Oak Plantation/Christophe Clement/Garrett Gomez
OH CANADA! MORE FROM WISE DAN IN 2014?
Charles LoPresti, trainer of reigning U.S. Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, has yet to taste defeat at Woodbine and is considering spending more time at the Toronto oval in 2014.
LoPresti, perfect through two Woodbine starts, won the 2011 edition of the $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile with Turallure and retained the title last year with Wise Dan.
Although based in Kentucky, LoPresti is considering using Woodbine’s Grade 2 King Edward Stakes, a one-mile turf event held this year on June 23 when won by Mile rival Riding the River, as a potential stop on the superstar’s 2014 campaign.
“I think his (Wise Dan) toughest race this year was at Churchill in the Firecracker,” said LoPresti, of the one-mile turf race held on June 29. “For as little money as he ran for he had to carry the top weight of 128 pounds on a tough course.
“If I had it to do all over again, I probably would have brought him to Canada and run him in the King Edward. It was for more money and it wasn’t a handicap race, so I’m going to reconsider what I do with him next year. I don’t want to put weight on him if I don’t have to. The race (at Woodbine) is a $200,000 race as opposed to $150,000, without having to carry all the weight.”
Carrying 128 pounds over yielding turf in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap ensured that the victorious Wise Dan would inevitably carry more weight next time out in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap, at Saratoga, which the gelding won carrying an additional pound over a good turf.
“When we put that weight on him in the Firecracker, it set a precedent for the rest of the year and he had to carry more weight in the Fourstardave,” acknowledged LoPresti. “We’ll carry 126 pounds (actually 124 pounds) in the Woodbine Mile, and he won’t be giving such a spread to the other horses. That’s the biggest concern. It’s not the weight, it’s the spread.”
Wise Dan breezed four furlongs in :48.20 Tuesday morning at Keeneland in his final tune up for the race.
EXCAPER LOOKS FOR GRADED STAKES WIN
Excaper, who finished second in both the Grade 3 Summer Stakes and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf as a two-year-old, will look to make the grade in Sunday’s $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
Despite having banked just shy of $500,000 though 13 career starts, the multiple stakes-placed colt is still seeking his first added-money score. The now four-year-old son of Exchange Rate enjoyed a solid sophomore campaign finishing fifth, defeated less than two lengths in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga, as well as a strong second in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes, at Delaware Park.
Black is still incredulous that the talented grey has yet to win a stake, while recalling Excaper’s gutsy second-place run in the Breeders’ Cup.
"If someone had told me that day, that 20 months later this horse would still have not won a stake, I’d have been very surprised," said Black. "He’s been stakes placed so many times. Last year we raced in the Kent and we ran into Optimizer that day who broke the track record. Unbridled Command won the Saranac and he’s a good horse. As well, the horse who ran second to Wise Dan in the Fourstardave, King Kreesa, was a head in front of us in the Saranac. He’s (Excaper) running in good company and I always feel he’s just a couple lengths off of really doing it. I’m not sure if we’ve just been unlucky, but he’s as good now as he’s ever been."
On Monday, Excaper breezed four furlongs in :50.40 over the Woodbine turf with jockey Luis Contreras up. "I was really impressed with the work," said Black. "The dogs were way out so he didn’t go that fast, but he did exactly what I wanted him to do, which just pick it up from the five-eighths pole and go a half-mile and let him gallop on out. He was really strong finishing up. I thought it was a good work."
Black knows that his hard-trying colt has found a monster to battle in the shape of U.S. Horse of the Year, Wise Dan. Drawing up a game plan to face the champion chestnut is no easy task.
"Wise Dan is never far out of it, he doesn’t need the lead and will probably be in a stalking position," said Black. "He’s shown such versatility. I know they get a lot of pressure to run him on the dirt again, but he’s made over $4-million doing what he’s doing and he’s already won on three surfaces in good company. You look at a horse with form like his and it’s hard to know how you go about beating him."
Still, Black, who bucked the odds to defeat Ventura and Kip Deville in the 2008 edition of the Woodbine Mile with Rahy’s Attorney, believes his horse will put up a good fight.
"Winning the Mile with Rahy, beating two very good horses doing it, is a big part of what I’ve done here as a trainer," noted Black. "Winning the Plate is what everyone wants to do and we were lucky enough to do it (in 2007 with Mike Fox), but winning an open Grade 1 was a very big deal."
ZA APPROVAL ADDS PIZAZZ TO RICOH WOODBINE MILE
Za Approval, owned and bred by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, will make his first start in over two months when he contests the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Sunday.
The five-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Ghostzapper-Win Approval (a daughter of 1989 Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval), trained by Christophe Clement, enters off a second place finish to highly-regarded Obviously in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, June 29 at Betfair Hollywood Park. It was his last outing, since he was scratched from Saratoga’s Fourstardave and Bernard Baruch in August because of soft turf conditions.
“We’re looking for firm turf with him, regardless of the competition,” said Clement’s long-time assistant trainer, Christophe Lorieul. “We think he’s a very good horse but he’s a lot more effective on firm turf. So we went to California. We knew Obviously was a good horse but we took a shot. He was second best that day but he ran a very good race. I’m not sure we can beat Wise Dan. Wise Dan is a very good horse. But we’ll take him on and see what happens. Our horse is doing very well.”
Za Approval, who has won six of his 14 career starts while being piloted by seven different jockeys, will be ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, who has won the Mile twice, with Shakespeare in 2007 and Ventura in 2009.
WOODBINE MILE DRAW AVAILABLE ON WEBSITE
A reminder that Thursday’s Woodbine Mile draw from the east-end VIP tent will be streamed live at www.woodbinemile.com. Further information and event details for Mile day are available there. The Twitter hashtag is #WOMile.