Friday, May 11, 2012

Super Siblings: Successful Dan & Wise Dan

The same age as the Kentucky Derby (GI), the Clark Handicap (GI) has been contested over the same esteemed Louisville, Kentucky track since 1875, boasting a roll of victors that is speckled with the names of all-time greats, including Exterminator, Whirlaway, and Silver Charm. Named for the founder of the Louisville Jockey Club and the man who played a large role in the construction of Churchill Downs, Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the Clark Handicap is often viewed as the final significant race of the year for handicap horses.

In the 2010 edition of the Clark, a Thoroughbred named Successful Dan pulled on Julien Leparoux’s grip for much of the race, searching for a way to the lead. Down the historic Churchill Downs homestretch, the bay gelding veered outward, slamming into the multiple graded stakes-winning Redding Colliery and Rosie Napravnik, knocking the gray horse sideways. Galloping erratically down the stretch, Successful Dan battled with Giant Oak, making contact with him in their duel before crossing the wire ahead. However, as a result of his disruptive running, Successful Dan was disqualified to second.

A year later, Successful Dan’s half-brother, Wise Dan, would enter the same race off an impressive victory in the Fayette Stakes (GII) over Keeneland’s synthetic surface. The gelding had won the race in the same fashion as his half-brother, who had won the Fayette by three lengths a year earlier. Forwardly placed in the Clark, Wise Dan settled behind the stakes-winning Will’s Wildcat and the multiple graded stakes-winning Mission Impazible the first time past the Twin Spires. Wise Dan had the perfect trip over the main track prior to striking to the front around the far turn and edging clear in the final furlong, drawing away to a 3 ¾-length victory.

An injury kept Successful Dan away from the races the year Wise Dan won the Clark, but the bay gelding returned to post on opening day of Keeneland’s 2012 spring meet, loading into the gate for an allowance optional claiming over the all-weather track. Facing several graded stakes winners, Successful Dan battled for the lead in the one-turn race, galloping to a one-length victory.

Just over two weeks later, Wise Dan went to post over the same track, though the rewards for his race were more alluring. The chestnut gelding was making his first start since his Clark victory in the Ben Ali Stakes (GIII), in which he took the lead following the initial quarter of the nine-furlong race and never regressed as he easily coasted to a jaw-dropping 10 ½-length win in which he set a new track record of a breathtaking final time of 1:46.63. With his win, many began to declare him the early favorite for Horse of the Year. It was certainly one of the most impressive races that has been run in 2012.

Merely twelve days later, Successful Dan made his return to graded stakes company, going to post in the Alysheba Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks day. Settling near the rear of the eight-horse field, the son of Successful Appeal swept to the outside and down the homestretch, galloped his way to a one-length triumph. With his victory, Successful Dan defeated many of the top handicap horses in the nation, including Mucho Macho Man and Nate’s Mineshaft. Like his half-brother had done less than two weeks earlier, Successful Dan set a track record.

Both geldings are homebreds for Morton Fink, who has been a part of the Thoroughbred racing industry for over forty years. Fink also owns the dam of both talented horses, the eighteen-year-old mare Lisa Danielle. Also the dam of the stakes-winning Royal Dancer, Lisa Danielle is by Wolf Power, who was Horse of the Year in South Africa in 1984. Though the South African champion is a relatively low-key broodmare sire, the damsire of Lisa Danielle is the great Secretariat – one of the most tremendous sires of broodmares of all-time. He has produced the dams of many grade one winners and successful stallions, including A.P. Indy and Storm Cat. Lisa Danielle also hails from a lucrative French dam line that stems from female family five, a prolific female family that has yielded the dams of such great horses as Native Dancer and Seabiscuit.

Whereas Successful Dan is by Successful Appeal – a Man O’ War sire line stallion, Wise Dan is sired by Wiseman’s Ferry – a Northern Dancer sire line stud. However, both geldings form two crosses of Northern Dancer in just the first five generations of their bloodlines. Inbreeding to this champion has been present in the pedigrees of such horses as the champions and classic victors Big Brown, Rachel Alexandra, and Summer Bird.

Both Successful Dan and Wise Dan appear to be among the top of their class. It is a rare occurrence to see two siblings posting such remarkable victories within the same time frame and should certainly be appreciated. Though trainer Charles Lopresti plans to avoid running the brothers against each other, we could be in store for a sibling showdown in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita in November. Regardless what happens, Fink and Lopresti are very fortunate to have a pair of such gifted brothers.

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