Preview of Saturday's Wise Dan Stakes (G2) @Churchill Downs

The Wise Dan Stakes is a Grade II staple on the Stephen Foster undercard. Check out this preview of Saturday's most important turf race.
The Wise Dan Stakes is a Grade II staple on the Stephen Foster undercard. Check out this preview of Saturday's most important turf race.

1 1/16th (Turf), Wise Dan Stakes (G2), Purse $300k, 4+

The Grade II Wise Dan Stakes at Churchill Downs, serves as “the turf race” that precedes Saturday’s “feature,” the Stephen Foster (G1). This race was originally named the Firecracker Stakes, but was rechristened, honoring a winner who scored here on a pair of occasions. Wise Dan was an incredibly versatile runner who won Breeders’ Cup races and Horse of the Year honors. His grass exploits, in particular, were impressive under some of the most challenging conditions. Just when you thought he was overmatched ... his late running exploits made him incredibly dangerous. Once again, the 2021 edition is going to be a magnificent run on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Once the Meet is complete, the surface is due to be refurbished. Let's go out with a bang! In the meantime, Wise Dan’s legacy lives on …

Now, let’s find out about this field!


#1 Set Piece (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

The Juddmonte homebred was perfect at Churchill Downs in a pair of preps for the Wise Dan. Trainer Cox clearly had this race in mind, as he brought this well-bred son of Dansili (GB) along from the winter into the spring. He has faced some major challenges, accepted them, and won impressively of late. With Florent Geroux, Cox’s go-to guy in the saddle, he should be considered a major contender. Cox’s power grows with every “Graded” contest he enters. The only question … can this gelding make the jump into G2 Co.?

Grade: B+


#2 Mutakatif (Jky: M. Murrill/Trn: A. Davies):

Trainer Alberta Davies has a tough road to hoe here in the Wise Dan, as this 6-yr-old tries a G2 for the first time ever. This runner was part of Chad Brown’s operation, but switched barns before his last race. That effort was pretty pitiful, as the son of Acclamation (GB) was 7th, well-behind Super Sol #4 who won. The only redeeming quality, besides the aura of Brown’s tutelage that barely remains, is the presence of Mitch Murrill. Boy, he was impressive during the Fair Grounds Meet, and he has the ability to make an impact on a turf contest.

Grade: C+


#3 Somelikeitbrown (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: M. Maker):

Mike Maker watched his streaky runner, rate and get home nicely in the Dinner Party (G2) at Pimlico on The Preakness Day undercard. The 5-yr-old out of Big Brown was up against a tepid field that day, and this race at Churchill might be a better one. Does he have a penchant for big race failure when he is up against some stiff competition? Possibly ... His chance has arrived to prove pundits like this one, well … wrong. Getting Jose Ortiz back offers stability, and he should be a fairly competitive price. Maker is assiduous, and prepares extremely well … I am nonplussed ...

Grade: B


#4 Super Sol (Jky: G. Saez/Trn: J. Cano):

Conditioner Juan Cano has this runner headed in the proper direction after the 6-yr-old won an OC62.5 contest on the Matt Winn back in late May. Call it a prep, but like the #2, he may be severely outclassed, especially considering the comp in here. Jockey Gabe Saez continues to be hot of late, but his turf riding experience is rather suspect in the opinion of this writer. You might find some class climbers elsewhere in these PPs that have a better chance than this one. No disrespect to Cano, because he is finally in charge of his own outfit, after serving as an assistant for years to Angel Montano, who passed away late last year. A win here would be an absolute coup for him.

Grade: C


#5 Hierarchy (Jky: A. Beschizza/Trn: J. Sharp):

Off-the-bench in his 1st start of 2021, this Joe Sharp-trainee was just that … sharp … in his debut. Running on the Matt Winn with some “give,” he circumnavigated the oval nicely, coming from behind to secure the win. Dating back to last year, Corey Lanerie was the everyday jock. However, Sharp is going with Adam Beschizza, who does know this one’s tendencies. If he can turn in another “rated” performance like he did earlier this month, he could be a big shot at a price. Double-digits will be in this one’s future on the tote because he clearly does not have the experience. Interesting one to watch …

Grade: B-


#6 Kentucky Ghost (Jky: R. Bejarano/Trn: V. Oliver):

This homebred from the folks at Blue Devil Racing have decided to continue to employ Vicky Oliver as the trainer of their son of Ghostzapper. Considering her “Graded” record that could be an extremely poor choice. Oliver has her spots … at Ellis … at KY Downs … etc., but this G2 is not going to turn out well. Certainly, this entry has game, especially after some excellent results since March. However, up against Maker’s entry or Casse’s, it is going to be very difficult. Vet Raffy B. knows this one through and through, but that will not be enough. Ghosted, once the race is complete …

Grade: C+


#7 Ride a Comet (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: M. Casse):

This Mark Casse-trained 6-yr-old should be ready for action against this field. He has all of the tools at his disposal to win the Wise Dan, and a visit to the winner's circle should come Saturday. Last out, in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill, he was up against it, having to compete with Domestic Spending and Colonel Liam. This is a much easier spot compared to that one, and his HOF conditioner has him fit after some excellent works. John Oxley is an excellent owner, and with Tyler Gaffalione aboard, he should have the ability to put this one in the proper position. To date, the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) was his strongest performance, even though he was 2nd to Raging Bull.

Grade: A-


#8 Field Pass (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: M. Maker):

You can be guaranteed that the Thoroughbreds who are owned by Three Diamonds Farm are going to be well-bred, and most assuredly will be under the care of Mike Maker. This stalwart is a 4-yr-old colt who seems to have run for much longer. That could be because his 2020 dance card was chock full with races. To pull a Howard Dean … he went to Churchill, Keeneland, Saratoga, back to Churchill, then Santa Anita, and Woodbine, and then Santa Anita again … 3 of those races were wins, and that makes him a player, but maybe not in this spot. Ricardo Santana has trouble with turf racing, as he really cannot seem to time a run at the top of the stretch, even when he has a ton of horse under him. Tough spot here, despite a classy resume …

Grade: B


#9 Spooky Channel (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: J. Barkley):

This son of the great English Channel was battle-hardened starting last year when he competed for trainer Brian Lynch in the Manhattan (G1) at Belmont. Though he finished 6th, it was a tough race. Clearly, since then the John B. Connally (G3) win at Sam Houston was his greatest accomplishment. Now in the barn of Jason Barkley, he is going to have to improve after a poor showing in the Louisville (G3). Maybe cutting back will assist … unknown at this point. But news of Johnny V’s appearance in this spot could be very welcome, even though his turf riding is not close to some of the top folks on tour.

Grade: C+


#10 In Loze (BRZ) (Jky: J. Talamo/Trn: P. Lobo):

Trainer Paulo Lobo has had a few stakes turf moments over the years, but they are few and far between. He took this son of Agnes Gold (JPN) under his wing, after ownership brought this runner to the U.S. from Argentina late in 2019. He was not necessarily stupendous back in the homeland, nor did he particularly have that many quality turf efforts. Lobo has had him poking along in ALLW Co., and for some reason thinks he is up for a G2. If he enters, he will get to run around the Matt Winn … but, in the end, this is a huge ask for jockey Joe Talamo. He rarely rides on the grass. An impediment to say the least …

Grade: C


Join us Saturday for all of our Churchill Downs selections! Should be a great set of races on Stephen Foster Day!