Charlie Lopresti is prepared to take the heat no matter the outcome this weekend.
Should his multiple Grade I winning charge Wise Dan get beat in Saturday's Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and subsequently be too knocked out to go on to next month's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park, the Kentucky-based conditioner knows he will never hear the end of it for not training the chestnut gelding up to the World Championships.
And if Wise Dan triumphs this weekend but falls short four weeks from now, Lopresti knows all the so-called experts will openly wonder if the son of Wiseman's Ferry had one prep race too many.
"If he gets beat, they're going to blame it on the Shadwell but if he wins, I'm going to be brilliant," Lopresti chuckled.
Lopresti may be ready to fall on sword if need be but, really, the decision to go in the Shadwell was made by Wise Dan himself.
When he worked the way he did last Friday, Lopresti's only choice was to block out the noise and simply listen to his horse.
Barely three weeks after solidifying his status as one of the nation's top older horses with his three-length triumph in the Grade I Woodbine Mile, Wise Dan will attempt to build on what could be an Eclipse Award-winning résumé this season when he leads a field of 12 in the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile.
The Shadwell is one of five graded stakes and three Grade I contests on Keeneland's Saturday card, the highlight of the track's opening weekend.
Already a Grade I winner on dirt, Wise Dan has become the likely favorite for the Breeders' Cup Mile — should he go that route — with back-to-back effortless wins in the Grade II Fourstardave over a yielding Saratoga turf and the aforementioned Woodbine Mile.
In his first move after the Fourstardave, Wise Dan had clockers shaking their heads in wonder when he worked a half mile over the Saratoga turf in :45.89. That fitness was evident again last week when he covered four furlongs in a bullet :47.40 at Keeneland.
Moves like that reiterate to Lopresti that Morton Fink's homebred just might be the Horse of the Year candidate many have billed him to be. It also tells him the gelding is ready to answer that query on the track.
"Everybody keeps telling me that (he could be Horse of the Year)... and I try not to think that way because if I think that way, it will cloud my mind," Lopresti said. "I just have to watch that horse, see how he trains everyday. He's pretty special.
"He came back from that work (last Friday) and I can tell you he wasn't even a bit knocked out. He does it time and time again so I'm thinking now if he's not fit enough, he's never going to be."
There are no shortage of top contenders lining up to test Wise Dan's mettle. Stuart Janney's Data Link captured the Grade I Maker's 46 Mile over the Keeneland turf this past April and was most recently second to fellow Shadwell entrant Dominus in the Grade II Bernard Baruch.
The Dale Romans-trained Silver Max flexed his front-running muscle to win six straight at one point, before finishing fifth as the favorite in the Grade I Secretariat at Arlington.
"I think he can pretty much run all out for a flat mile," Romans said. "I don't like hearing Wise Dan's going there, but we'll have to take him out sooner or later."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com.