Wise Dan scrapes home
Wise Dan just held off the late challenge of Optimizer to make a winning return in the Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga.
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Charles LoPresti's two-time Horse of the Year was having his first start since returning from colic surgery with the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita his main targets later in the year.
A confidence-boosting win ahead of those assignments was the order of the day but he never looked fully in control of the contest under Johnny Velazquez.
His jockey had to get serious with him inside the final furlong and though he muscled his way to the front Optimizer flew down the outside to force the judge into calling for a photo.
A nose separated the pair in Wise Dan's favour, with Five Iron taking third spot.
Despite the scrappy nature of the victory, it was a good weight-carrying performance from Wise Dan who was conceding 11lb to the runner-up.
LoPresti said: "We wanted a good race for him to get started with.
"He's been through a lot. I knew he was training good and I knew he was going to run good.
"I wouldn't have been disappointed if he was beat - it would have been something to build on.
"He showed why he is the two-times Horse of the Year.
"God willing, he comes back good. He'll be way tougher next time."