When last we saw Wise Dan, he edged out victory in the Turf Classic at Churchill, his third straight win dating back to that off-the-turf Shadwell at Keeneland last fall. The two-time horse of the year has lost just a single race on the lawn in his career and you have to go back pretty far in the running lines to find it.
Given his age, there are probably some questions as to what kind of Wise Dan we'll see after over three months on the bench due to the colic episode. If this was the same old Wise Dan that we've known the last two years, there would be little standing in his way to an easy victory. But since we don't really know what to expect from him on his return, I think this will be a good race to sit back and watch for fun.
Remember Lea running his rivals into the ground on the front end en route to winning the Donn last February at Gulfstream? Well, he was an MTO in today's Baruch (and is now scratch), a curious placing for this horse after so much time off.
By the way, what the hell is Optimizer doing in the Baruch? Isn't it about time to give this guy a bit of a break? In his last three starts he finished 12th, beaten 33 lengths, 9th, beaten eight lengths, and "eased". I realize he's a graded stakes winner and I'm not suggesting he drops into the claiming ranks, but perhaps a ungraded stakes race or an allowance would do him some good. Perhaps he's finally ready to put his struggles behind him but, based on what I see on paper, he looks like a horse that could use some class relief in order to get things back on track.
Today's Saratoga card also features the Woodward, headlined by Moreno and Itsmyluckyday. As I was looking through this race last night I couldn't help but think this could be a good year for a three-year-old to have a good shot at winning the Breeders' Cup Classic; the older horse division just doesn't "wow" me at all. Moreno's a nice colt that can roll home on the lead if left untouched, but he's not a model of consistency. I've enjoyed watching Itsmyluckyday come back after a lot of time off, and perhaps he'll continue to move forward towards the major fall racing action, but I don't have him at the top of my Classic contender list.
Anyway, I think at a minimum, we're looking at a pretty wide open field of contenders for this year's Classic - there are a lot of "good" horses in the division but very little in the way of overwhelming favorites, at least from my perspective on this Labor Day weekend.
Below is today's Woodward field; Micromanage has scratched from the race.
|I. Ortiz, Jr.
|E. Plesa, Jr.
|Prayer for Relief