In the instances when Successful Dan's ability has been unrestricted by his physical frailty, the 7-year-old gelding has looked every bit the monster his celebrated younger sibling has been deemed.
Eight days after his half brother — reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan — wowed the Keeneland faithful in the Grade I Maker's 46 Mile, Successful Dan did his part to keep trainer Charlie LoPresti wondering which one would merit the bragging rights in the family if they ever did match strides.
The trophy for Keeneland's Grade III, $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes will be staying in the care of owner/breeder Morton Fink for one more year. Twelve months after Wise Dan began his championship 2012 campaign with a victory in the 11⁄8-mile test, Successful Dan launched his 2013 season with an adroit gate-to-wire 1-length victory over fellow graded stakes winner Boisterous on Sunday.
Plagued by suspensory issues throughout his career — including missing all of 2011 — Successful Dan was making just his 12th lifetime start and his first outing since being diagnosed with a sesamoidal ligament strain in his left front as he was prepping for a start in the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga last July.
When his five rivals let Successful Dan get away with pedestrian fractions of :25.03 and :50.18 under jockey Julien Leparoux, the matter of whether the bay gelding's latest comeback would be a triumphant one became moot.
"That was a perfect race for him because he didn't really have to run hard the whole way," LoPresti said. "When they went that slow up front, I saw how much horse he still had going around the turn.
"I hate to brag but he's just a good horse. I wouldn't want to hook (Wise Dan and Successful Dan) together."
Despite the repeated interruptions in his career, each of Successful Dan's comebacks suggest he isn't done improving.
Among his eight career wins is a 5-for-5 record at Keeneland, including a victory in the 2010 Grade II Fayette Stakes. When the bay Successful Appeal gelding won the Grade II Alysheba Stakes over eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned last May, he did so in a track record time of 1:41.04 going 11⁄16 miles on the Churchill Downs main track.
Though LoPresti had been targeting the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill on June 15 for Wise Dan, he is open to rethinking options for the sake of keep the two apart.
"I want to get through this meet and catch my breath a bit," LoPresti said. "We might have to think about what we're doing with Wise Dan and him now. I really don't want to run them against each other but at some time, it may happen."
Sent off as the 4-to-5 favorite over the likes of multiple Grade I winner Richard's Kid, who finished third, Successful Dan covered the final eighth of a mile in less than 12 seconds Sunday as he hit the wire in 1:51.14.
"I knew by the three-eighths pole no one was coming to me," Leparoux said. "He's a good horse and if he's healthy, he's a champion. That's how good he is. We just have to pray for him to be healthy all year."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.