Wise Dan hangs on to win Bernard Baruch

08/30/2014 3:52 PM

08/30/2014 5:37 PM

Saratoga Springs, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Wise Dan, the reigning two-time Horse of the Year, held off a surging Optimizer to capture Saturday's $250,000 Bernard Baruch Stakes at Saratoga in his first race since surgery.

Owned by Morton Fink, Wise Dan was making his first start since winning the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 3. He underwent colic surgery nearly two weeks later and has been training at Saratoga for this comeback effort.

The 7-year-old gelding, trained by Charlie LoPresti. broke from post 5 in the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes versus eight rivals, including a coupled entry. Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, the 4-5 favorite settled into fourth behind pacesetter Five Iron. Just before the start the champion threw Velazquez delaying the race.

Wise Dan moved wide around the final turn and gained the lead nearing the final furlong. Longshot Optimizer, ridden by Alan Garcia, came charging down the middle of the grass course to engage the favorite. Wise Dan was able to hold off the 29-1 longshot and post a nose victory in his first race in nearly five months.

"He showed he has the heart of a champion," Velazquez said. "(He carried) 127 pounds coming from a long layoff. When I got to the eighth pole, I didn't think I got it. When I got past the sixteenth pole he was giving me everything he had and the other horse was coming from the outside. There was a little bit of doubt; he was getting tired. (I'm) incredibly proud. It's incredible to have this horse coming back."

Five Iron held on for third with Sayaad getting fourth. Rounding out the finish were Bio Pro, North Star Boy, Sky Blazer, Boisterous and Paris Vegas Lea and Red Rifle, both entered for the main track, were scratched.

The time for the Bernard Baruch was 1:39.08 on a firm turf course.

"He knows how to win races. Johnny said he was tired. I can tell you, he's just an amazing horse. That's the way he wins," LoPresti said. "We wanted to run here. I came here to run. I came here to train, and I came here to run. I really wanted to do it, and I'm really glad that we did."

The six-time Eclipse Award winner remained perfect in three starts this year and picked up $150,000. The gelding inched closer to $7 million in career earnings as he notched his 22nd victory in 30 lifetime starts.

Wise Dan began 2014 with a second straight win in the Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland on April 11 and also claimed a second straight Turf Classic at Churchill on Kentucky Derby Day.

Wise Dan returned $3.60, $3.10 and $2.20. Optimizer paid $14.60 and $8.20, and Five Iron paid $4.70 to show.

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