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Successful Dan wins Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Throughout Successful Dan’s injury-plagued career, trainer Charles LoPresti never lost faith in the older brother of reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

“I’ve always said he’s as good or better than Wise Dan. He’s just had a lot of problems,” LoPresti said.

Successful Dan missed all of the 2011 season with a suspensory injury. Similar problems befell him in 2009 and closed his 2012 campaign by the end of June.

The 7-year-old may finally have it all together when he makes his 14th career start in the $600,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

“The horse is really, really good right now,” LoPresti said. “He’s on top of his game. I couldn’t ask him to be any better.”

The Successful Appeal gelding has the workouts to prove it. He posted two bullet five-furlong drills in preparing for his first career start at Saratoga, covering the distance in 1:00.61 on July 20 and 1:00.15 on July 26.

“I don’t like to see horses work real close to a race, a black-letter work,” LoPresti said of his strategy. “My work should have been done a couple of weeks ago, and it’s worked out great. I’ve caught good racetracks and the weather’s been good. He’s where I want him. If he shows up and he’s the horse he used to be, he’ll be tough.”

Successful Dan’s results are a testament to the painstaking approach of his handlers. “Every time the horse has run, he’s been in tip-top shape or he wouldn’t have the record he has,” LoPresti said.

SUCCESSFUL DAN WINS 2012 ALYSHEBA STAKES

Successful Dan Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

The bay gelding boasts eight victories in 13 starts. He has been second twice and third once for career earnings of $773,154 in behalf of Morton Fink, who bred him in Kentucky and still owns him.

For handicappers, Successful Dan is difficult to assess in the Whitney. He and jockey Julien Leparoux will break from post one as part of a field of eight. He is listed at 12-1 in the morning line, making him the third-longest shot on the board. Defending Whitney winner Fort Larned, with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard as he was for their triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, is heavily favored at 7-5, followed by Metropolitan Hanidcap runner-up Cross Traffic at 5-2.

Successful Dan returned from a layoff of almost 10 months to set a sluggish pace in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland and hold off talented Boisterous by one length on April 21. His connections were extremely disappointed when he struggled home fourth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, 15 lengths behind pace-setting Fort Larned.

“This last race, he didn’t run his race,” LoPresti admitted. “And I can’t tell you why.”

The Whitney should go a long way toward determining how much Successful Dan has left. The field also includes 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Mucho Macho Man (6-1) as well as Ron the Greek and Alpha. Ron the Greek took second in last year’s Whitney. Alpha gained the distinction of finishing in a dead heat with Golden Ticket in the Travers Stakes last August.

“The horse who wins this race is going to show he’s a special horse that deserves to be at the top of the handicap division,” LoPresti said.

$750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap

Saturday, Saratoga Race Course, Race 10, post time 5:45 p.m. EDT

3-year-olds and older, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)

PP

Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

Odds

1

Successful Dan

Julien Leparoux

118

Charles LoPresti

12-1

2

Mucho Macho Man

Edgar Prado

119

Kathy Ritvo

6-1

3

Fort Larned

Brian Hernandez

122

Ian Wilkes

7-5

4

Cross Traffic

John Velazquez

117

Todd Pletcher

5-2

5

Ron the Greek

Jose Lezcano

118

Bill Mott

6-1

6

Alpha

Joel Rosario

115

Kiaran McLaughlin

10-1

7

Csaba

Luis Saez

114

Philip Gleaves

20-1

8

Fast Falcon

Junior Alvarado

114

Nick Zito

15-1

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