Wise Dan was named the 2012 USA Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards held in Florida on Saturday evening. He also became the first winner since John Henry in 1981 to sweep the Older Male and Male Turf Horse categories.
Wise Dan (Wiseman’s Ferry) is a homebred for Illinois owner Morton Fink and he polled 194 votes to a landslide victory over I’ll Have Another (30) and Fort Larned (12).
A Group 1 winning treble on turf solidified his claims in the Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita. He smashed a long-standing track record in the BC Mile clocking 1.31.78s to erase the mark held by Atticus since 1997.
The gelding’s connections are deserving winners of the good fortune brought by their brilliant galloper. Fink, 83, has made significant contributions to racing for more than 40 years but dispersed his broodmare band as he aged. He kept the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle because she was named after his granddaughter; that mare produced Wise Dan, who was foaled in Kentucky in February 2007.
Trainer Charlie Lopresti, 55, had won his first feature race as recently as 2009 in the G3 Northern Dancer Stakes with Wise Dan’s half brother Successful Dan. “It’s like a dream come true for a little guy like me,” Lopresti admitted. “Wise Dan is pretty easy to train – as a matter of fact, you just stay out of his way.
“Horse of the Year honours had never even crossed my mind but he kept getting better and better and broke two track records along the way,” Lopresti said. “You haven’t seen a horse like that since John Henry and Forego. When you go back to the last really good gelding, you talk about those horses; that’s for sure.”
His sire US Wiseman’s Ferry (Hennessy) was a G3 winner of the 2002 West Virginia Derby and Lone Star Derby before retiring to Castleton Lyons in Kentucky. He transferred to Dana Point Farm in Pennsylvania in 2009.
The 42nd Eclipse Award winners:
2YO Male: SHANGHAI BOBBY (Harlan’s Holiday)
2YO Filly: BEHOLDER (Henny Hughes)
3YO Male: I’LL HAVE ANOTHER (Flower Alley)
3YO Filly: QUESTING (Hard Spun)
Older Male: WISE DAN (Hennessy)
Older Female: ROYAL DELTA (Empire Maker)
Male Sprinter: TRINNIBERG (Teuflesberg)
Female Sprinter: GROUPIE DOLL (Bowman’s Band)
Male Turf Horse: WISE DAN (Hennessy)
Female Turf Horse: ZAGORA (Green Tune)