Wise Dan gave us a thrilling ride as he managed to overcome a troubled trip yesterday in the 23rd Firecracker Handicap (gr.2) at Churchill Downs on the turf. With a yielding track, and pouring rain the horse and jockey displayed pure finesse. Weather was not in their favor, but the reigning “Horse of the Year” proved to us how fearless he really is.
Wise Dan held his position along the inside of the track, as he sat patiently in 3rd/4th. You could see JR Velazquez holding this mighty horse back with the strategy to obviously keep him on the inside as he dabbed on the breaks. Coming into the final furlong, Wise Dan was still pinned on the inside amongst the other contenders, and rather than finding a way out of the clustered mess; JR Velazquez maneuvered Wise Dan so tightly upon the hedge there was no room for error.
“I was in the right spot the whole way and he was going well the whole way,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “I didn’t want to make a premature move. I decided to wait. I had to work my way out. If you watch the head-on, he brushes up against the bushes and he even jumped right at the eighth pole. By the sixteenth-pole, though, he got through. He’s just a very good horse. I know he can handle it when things get tight. He’s big enough to push his way through. I’ve ridden him that way before and I wasn’t worried about it.” Courtesy of : Bloodhorse.com
As fast as he was moving and trying to seize whatever opportunity he could find, there were a couple of moments when he did have to steady while trying to overcome traffic. He battled like a warrior with only inches away from the hedge and the pacesetter Seruni. As he overcame traffic problems running on the inside, he finally got a gap to easily win by 2 lengths. Late-running Lea managed to come in 2nd beating pacesetter Seruni, by a neck. Wise Dan managed to run his foes down while carrying 11-13 pounds more than his fellow contenders.
He is the first horse to ever win two Firecracker Handicaps, and has now won eight of nine turf races in his career and is 3-for-3 over Churchill’s turf.
If you haven’t seen the race, you have to check it out!
Courtesy of: Youtube