ARCADIA, Calif. — However the Eclipse Award voting shakes out, whether there are one or more pieces of hardware engraved with Wise Dan's name on them doesn't hold much weight with trainer Charlie LoPresti.
The only thing LoPresti and owner/breeder Morton Fink need as further proof they have one of Thoroughbred racing's all-time beasts in their care is the mental image of the reigning Horse of the Year propelling himself toward a second straight Breeders' Cup Mile triumph on Saturday.
It was a banner couple of days for several horses who came into the 2013 Breeders' Cup with wins in the World Championships already to their credit, and it was another inspiring outing from the horse regarded as one of the world's best.
With Jose Lezcano picking up the reins from injured Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Wise Dan kept his chestnut legs driving until they ran down Za Approval in late stretch to capture the $2 million Mile by three-quarters of a length.
With 13 wins in his last 15 outings, Wise Dan has been living at the upper echelon of racing's food chain for the better part of the last two years. Still, some thought the 6-year-old gelding might be vulnerable after he was beaten by fellow Mile entrant Silver Max in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile when that race came off the grass because of heavy rain at Keeneland on Oct. 5.
The horse who set a course record in last year's Mile and now has eight Grade I wins among his 19 career victories recovered after stumbling at the break and came with a four-wide surge off the far turn after tracking seventh through a half in :44.47 to cap off another championship-worthy campaign.
"It was incredible what he did, I know Jose said he really stumbled bad and almost went to his knees," LoPresti said. "I saw the fractions up front and I knew they would come back to us, I just hoped we had enough time to get there.
"He's the best horse in the world. (Awards) don't matter to me and I don't want to hear anyone talk again about him going on dirt, mile and a quarter or anything."
The only damper on Wise Dan joining Miesque, Lure, and Goldikova as connective Mile winners was news that his regular jockey, Velazquez, was going in for emergency surgery to remove his spleen after going down when Secret Compass suffered a fatal fracture in the Juvenile Fillies.
Lezcano had been the perfect pinch hitter for Wise Dan, winning all three of his prior rides on the gelding, including the Grade I Maker's 46 Mile and Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic this year.
"I really wanted Johnny to ride the horse. He's done so much with him. But I can tell you, Jose has done a great job," LoPresti said. "I've got the utmost faith in him because ... he knows what kind of horse he's sitting on."
Final time in the Mile was 1:32.47 over a firm turf.
With multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Horse of the Year honors could again fall to Wise Dan — further putting him in the annals of horses who defy words.
"I got my birthday party, which is one month from now, and he keeps me going," Fink said. "As long as the horse is sound and close to being just like he is now, he runs."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.