Successful Dan won the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland in his 2013 debut (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
By Tom Pedulla, America's Best Racing
Every time Successful Dan steps into the starting gate, those associated with the 7-year-old gelding think that will be the day he puts it all together and shows the racing world how extremely talented he is.
They hope that day will finally come on Saturday, when he continues his quest for a Grade 1 triumph and heads a field of seven in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
“It’s kind of tough at times,” said trainer Charles LoPresti, reflecting on the horse’s seemingly star-crossed career. “Maybe we’ll shine this time.”
He held that optimism last time for the Whitney Handicap, only to have the good vibrations end almost as soon as he saddled the son of Successful Appeal for just his 14th career start. Something spooked Successful Dan, leading him to retreat rapidly and fall.
“He has never, ever done that,” said LoPresti, who has endured more than his share of other surprises. “I don’t know why he did it.”
He believes the fall contributed to a runner-up finish to Cross Traffic, who benefitted from an unpressured lead in gaining his first Grade 1 victory.
“You sure don’t want that to happen to a horse before a big race like that,” he said, adding, “Maybe he wasn’t into the race the first part of it. It took him awhile to get his feet under him.”
AFTER A TOUGH RACE, SUCCESSFUL DAN (outside) FINISHED SECOND IN THE WHITNEY INVITATIONAL
Successful Dan finished well to be second and he will not have Cross Traffic to contend with in the Woodward. The Whitney victor was originally being pointed toward the race but will instead be given more time between starts and be entered in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park in New York.
The seven-horse Woodward field still offers abundant quality. A revived Paynter ships in from the West Coast and will ensure a solid pace. Mucho Macho Man, the second place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year, are using this race as a building block for a return to the Classic. So are Flat Out and Ron the Greek, two of trainer Bill Mott’s top older horses. Alpha has shown he can be dangerous at Saratoga on his best day. He dead-heated with long shot Golden Ticket in last year’s Travers.
LoPresti also trains Successful Dan’s younger brother, Wise Dan, the reigning Horse of the Year. While Wise Dan has been a delight to oversee, Successful Dan’s career has produced eight victories but also a significant number of setbacks. He endured suspensory problems in 2009 and missed all of 2011 with those issues. His season last year was over after June.
“He reminds me of the great old geldings of years gone by in the way he’s built,” LoPresti said. “He’s had a lot of hard luck with suspensory injuries, but I think that is all behind him now.”
Maybe, just maybe, the stars are finally aligned for Successful Dan. “If you consider your horse one of the best in the country, you have to step up and compete in these races,” LoPresti said. “I’m really excited to run in this race.”