It's taken the better part of two years for the opportunity to come around, but Successful Dan is finally in position to do his younger sibling a solid.
When Successful Dan was disqualified to third after finishing first in the 2010 Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, his half-brother Wise Dan avenged him by winning the 11⁄8-mile race a year later.
As physical setbacks repeatedly sent Successful Dan to the sidelines, robbing him of big-race opportunities, little brother lifted up the barn of trainer Charlie LoPresti and their owner/breeder Morton Fink by becoming the 2012 Horse of the Year.
The lone loss Wise Dan suffered during his six-race, championship campaign a season ago was by a head to Ron the Greek in Churchill's Grade I, $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap. Fit and healthy now at age 7, Successful Dan gets his chance to right a family wrong when he faces an eminent field of five others in Saturday's running of the 11⁄8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up.
Successful Dan is the only horse in the Foster field without a Grade I win. That the Successful Appeal gelding still looms the 2-1 morning-line favorite over a group that includes reigning Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, 2012 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy and defending race victor Ron the Greek speaks to his ability when not hindered by limitations.
Were it not for suspensory issues that have plagued Successful Dan throughout his 12-race career — including a ligament strain that flared up last summer — LoPresti believes the large-bodied bay could be right with his Breeders' Cup Mile-winning sibling in terms of top-level victories.
Though he could just as easily have sent Wise Dan into this spot, LoPresti and Fink wanted to give Successful Dan the chance to stand on his own while feeling his best.
"He's won a Grade I but they took it away from him and I'd like to see him get one now," LoPresti said of Successful Dan. "I'd like a chance to go to the Breeders' Cup with him because he's never had the chance.
"Had he not been plagued with the injuries he's been plagued with, you probably would have seen a potential Horse of the Year in him."
Technically, Successful Dan has crossed the wire first in all four of his career starts at Churchill and established the track record of 1:41.04 for 11⁄16 miles when he bested Fort Larned in last year's Grade II Alysheba Stakes.
Fort Larned turned the tables next time out, beating Successful Dan in the Grade III Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows last June. Back in the test barn, however, LoPresti saw the first indication the gelding's old ailment was getting ready to haunt him once more.
"I knew that night when we started pulling those bandages off ... something was amiss," LoPresti said. "He didn't mark his bandages evenly and he pushed one bandage up. Julien (jockey Leparoux) said he didn't accelerate around the turns and after I saw the bandages and then I got him to Saratoga and saw the filling in the pastern, the whole puzzle started to come together."
In his first start since being sidelined last summer, Successful Dan cantered to a gate-to-wire 1-length win in the Grade III Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland on April 21.
Where Take Charge Indy and Fort Larned will almost certainly be forwardly placed, Successful Dan can rate anywhere tactically. How well he performs in the first Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race of the year probably will dictate where he and Wise Dan point toward as LoPresti would love to continue being able to divide and conquer this season.
"When we see how this horse runs, then we'll make a plan for the rest of the summer as to what we'll do with Wise Dan and him," LoPresti said. "I think Successful Dan is going into this race good. That horse worked (his last work) as good as I've seen him ever since I've had him."
Four to face Royal Delta
The towering presence of two-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta was enough to keep most distaffers away as only four challengers were entered to face her in Saturday's Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill.
The 11⁄8-mile race is one of three other graded stakes on the Stephen Foster card.
As was the case a year ago, the Fleur de Lis will mark the first start for Royal Delta after a loss against males in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. The daughter of Empire Maker won last year's Fleur de Lis by 8 lengths en route to capping her season with a second straight win in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.
"Royal Delta is a proven champion but we've got quality too and we're undefeated on the dirt here," said Steve Margolis, trainer of graded stakes winner and Fleur de Lis entrant Wine Princess. "We're looking forward to the challenge and feel our horse deserves a shot."
STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP
When: 9:39 p.m. Saturday
Where: Churchill Downs
Purse: $500,000 (Grade I)
Distance: 11⁄8 miles
STEPHEN FOSTER FIELD
PP Horse Jockey Odds
1 Golden Ticket Rosario 12-1
2 Fort Larned Hernandez 3-1
3 Ron the Greek Lezcano 3-1
4 Take Charge Indy Napravnik 5-2
5 Pool Play Mena 15-1
6 Successful Dan Leparoux 2-1