Most trainers will agree one of the keys to getting a horse to run a route of ground is to getting said horse to relax during their race.
When Charlie Lopresti saw the calm demeanor radiating from his charge Wise Dan in the post parade, there was renewed faith the gelded son of Wiseman's Ferry was ready to handle the longest journey of his career.
Whatever concerns Wise Dan's connections had about his ability to handle 11⁄8 miles were dispelled when the 4-year-old shook clear under jockey Julien Leparoux to notch a 4-length triumph in Saturday's Grade II Fayette Stakes before 17,370 on the closing day of the Keeneland Fall Meet.
Morton Fink's homebred gelding has been quite the versatile performer in his 13 lifetime starts, notching his six prior wins on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces.
What Wise Dan hadn't done yet was win beyond eight furlongs. With that in mind, Lopresti made a point of giving the sometimes high-strung chestnut some long gallops heading into the $150,000 Fayette, a move that certainly paid off against his nine other rivals.
"I usually don't do much with him the morning of the race but I took him out (Saturday) and galloped him a regular gallop like I usually do," said Lopresti, who saddled Wise Dan's half brother, Successful Dan, to victory in last year's Fayette. "When he came in the paddock and got in the post parade, I could tell he was more settled. Usually he's kind of up pushing on the pony and pretty anxious, and today he wasn't that way."
Fresh off a respectable fourth-place finish in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 8 and sent off as the 5-to-2 second choice, Wise Dan tracked along four-wide just behind Future Prospect and Decisive Moment in the early going as those two prompted each other through an opening half in :47.19.
When Leparoux roused him through the final turn, Wise Dan swept past those two coming into the lane and put the race away from there, crossing the line in 1:48.72 with Ioya Bigtime a half-length clear of Workin for Hops for runner-up honors.
"He's not an easy ride, but when he relaxes he does good," said Leparoux, who booted home five winners on the card and wrapped up his third fall riding title with 33 victories total.
Favorite Mission Impazible finished ninth in the 10-horse field, beaten 61/2 lengths.
Wise Dan scored prior graded stakes wins in the Grade III Phoenix at Keeneland last fall and over the Churchill turf in the Grade II Firecracker Handicap on July 4. However, a start in the Grade I Clark Handicap over the Churchill main track on Nov. 25 — a race Successful Dan lost via disqualification last year — could be next.
"I just never knew this horse could go far and now I do," Lopresti said. "Maybe he'll get even for big brother if he goes to the Clark."