Wiseman’s Ferry’s WISE DAN crushed six opponents in an eye-opening 10 1/2-length victory in track record time in the $150,000 Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes on Sunday, April 22, at Keeneland Race Course, his first start of the year. He will be the horse to watch in the handicap division this year.
WISE DAN had not started in five months since winning the Grade 1 Clark H on November 25 on the main track at Churchill Downs. He was more than ready to race on Saturday. Third in the early going, he eagerly pulled jockey John Velazquez through the opening quarter and seized command entering the backstretch. He opened a clear advantage thereafter before drawing away to an open-length victory in 1:46.63 for 1 1/8 miles on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface. The time eclipsed the previous mark of 1:46.77.
WISE DAN has shown the rare versatility of winning graded stakes on turf, dirt, and synthetic surfaces. Overall, he has nine wins from 15 career starts, including a 2 3/4-length win in the Grade 2 Firecracker H on turf last July at Churchill Downs and a four-length triumph in the Grade 2 Fayette S last October on Keeneland’s synthetic track before earning his first top-level win by 3 3/4 lengths in the Clark H last fall to cap the season.
WISE DAN carried top weight of 123 pounds in the Ben Ali, five pounds more than each of his six opponents, and despite the layoff was sent off as the 4-to-5 favorite. The victory brought his lifetime earnings to $1,009,601.