Wise Dan powered through a driving rain to win the Firecracker Handicap on Saturday night at Churchill Downs. (Photo courtesy of Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs)
Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan overcame a rain-soaked turf course, a traffic jam and a tough weight assignment to win the Firecracker Handicap on Saturday night at Churchill Downs and stay perfect in 2013 with his third win in as many starts.
In handicap races, horses are assigned a weight - based on accomplishment - in an attempt to level the playing field. Wise Dan carried 128 pounds in the Firecracker and conceded from 11 to 14 pounds to his four challengers.
Entering the final turn of the one-mile race, the weight assignment appeared to be the least of Wise Dan’s problems. Wise Dan was hemmed in behind horses with nowhere to run. Several times jockey John Velazquez was forced to steady the champion, who looked ready to run right over pacesetter Seruni.
At the top of the stretch, Wise Dan powered through a narrow opening on the inside of Seruni but that rival battled bravely and then lugged in on Wise Dan, forcing him to brush against the hedge on the inside. Wise Dan would not be denied, however, and drove determinedly clear of Seruni and Lea, who overhauled Seruni for second.
Wise Dan won by two lengths as the overwhelming favorite - a $2 win ticket on Wise Dan returned $2.40 - and completed one mile on turf officially rated yielding in 1:39.82.
Wise Dan was named Horse of the Year, champion older male and champion turf male in 2012 after winning five times with one second-place finish from six start in a campaign capped by a victory over champion Animal Kingdom in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Wise Dan opened his 2013 season with a win in the Makers' 46 Mile Stakes at Keeneland in April prior to a victory on the Kentucky Derby undercard on may 4 in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes. The 6-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding won the Grade 2 Firecracker for his 16th win in 23 career races. He has earned more than $4.1 million.
For an Equibase chart, click here.