Less than a week after undergoing emergency colic surgery, two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan had a peaceful homecoming Wednesday as he was released from Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and sent home to trainer Charlie LoPresti's Lexington-based farm to rehabilitate.
The shaved hair on his belly stood as the only indication anything had been amiss with the 7-year-old gelding. Bounding off the van with Amy LoPresti, Charlie's wife, on the lead shank, a bright and feisty Wise Dan munched on grass for a handful of minutes before heading inside the barn he will reside in the next couple weeks.
"In a few weeks, we can start tack walking him and if the incision looks good and we're happy with him, we could start jogging him in 5-6 weeks," Charlie LoPresti said. "He only lost somewhere between 5-10 pounds throughout the whole thing. He hasn't lost much condition. He never spiked a temperature, he never ever was depressed. The next day (after surgery) he was like the old Dan.
"He's an amazing horse. He's just in a different league than most horses. The way he's acting, I could almost put the saddle on him now the way he's jumping around."
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LoPresti said Wise Dan will probably reside at his farm for about two weeks before heading back to his Keeneland base to begin tack walking. Barring any setbacks, the six-time Eclipse Award winner could be back breezing by July with a return to the races in time for the Saratoga meet likely.
"There is a chance he could run in August, the Fourstardave is that second week (in August) and the Bernard Baruch would be the last weekend," LoPresti said. "Then we would run him in the (Grade I) Shadwell Turf Mile (at Keeneland in October) and then the Breeders' Cup if everything goes right."
Wise Dan was taken in for surgery May 16 when he began showing signs of discomfort, pawing at the ground about an hour after having a routine gallop at Keeneland. Dr. Scott Hopper performed the surgery to repair the section of the small intestine that had flipped, although fortunately the issue had about corrected itself and no resection was needed.
"Basically when they laid him down on the table and they turned him upside down to prep him, they think somewhere between the prep and when he went into surgery (the small intestine) righted itself," LoPresti said. "When they opened him up, everything was right. As far as colic goes, this was the best-case scenario. They just opened him up and sewed him back up, basically an exploratory thing."
While colic can have a variety of causes, Charlie LoPresti said the veterinarians at Rood & Riddle reported they had an unusually high number of colic cases last week, a factor they partially attributed to the change in weather.
"He had just galloped like a monster that morning and he cooled out good," LoPresti recalled. "Horses are really sensitive and I wonder too with all this hoopla about Keeneland (changing from Polytrack back to a dirt surface) how upset we all were, I wonder if it didn't upset him. I know it sounds kooky, but you wonder if horses don't pick up on that kind of stuff."
Owned and bred by Morton Fink, Wise Dan opened his 2014 campaign with victories in the Grade I Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland and Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs before being felled by colic. The chestnut gelding has won 21 of 29 career starts, including 10 Grade I triumphs, with earnings of $6,802,920.
"As far as what happened to him, it shouldn't compromise him at all," Charlie LoPresti said.