Wise Dan's Talent In Eye of Beholder

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Ed DeRosa

April 21st, 2014

In case you have ever questioned the fickle nature of horse racing fans, witness the reactions this month to the returns of multiple Grade 1 winners Beholder, Princess of Sylmar, and Wise Dan.

photo courtesy Coady Photography/KeenelandNone had raced since the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in early November, and only two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan returned in a Grade 1 race, but it was that seasonal debut that seemed to curry the least favor with people questioning “who did he beat” and “when will his connections challenge him.”

Two-time champion Beholder and four-time Grade 1 winner Princess of Sylmar both made their four-year-old debuts in listed stakes, and each win was “just what she needed” and “a testament to the horsemanship of her connections.”

To be fair, both races were preps for a much bigger prize: the $1-million Ogden Phipps Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard, but multiple Grade 1 winner Close Hatches is pointing to that race too, and had no problem preparing for it with a pair of graded stakes wins this spring at Oaklawn Park.

All of this is not to question why Beholder and Princess of Sylmar ran where they did but to question a Thoroughbred racing fan base that applies different rules to different horses. Can you imagine the uproar if Wise Dan had returned in a Grade 3 race?

Reading the social media reaction, a casual observer would have thought Beholder’s 5 ¼-length destruction of the Santa Lucia Stakes on April 20 at Santa Anita Park was the best of the returns, but both her Speed Rating (97) and Class Rating (120.7) were the lowest of the trio.

Wise Dan received a 99 Speed, 121.3 Class, making Princess of Sylmar the top performer based solely on numbers with a 103 Speed and 121.4 Class.

All three are superior athletes and ranked in my top ten of the weekly America’s Best Racing Poll (Wise Dan 1st, Beholder 6th, and Princess of Sylmar 10th), and both Wise Dan and Beholder are certain future Racing Hall of Fame inductees with Princess of Sylmar knocking on the door.

But if you’re going to celebrate Beholder’s and Princess of Sylmar’s returns, then neither can you poo-poo Wise Dan’s eighth consecutive Grade 1 win on turf. And the same question directed at Wise Dan’s connections regarding the Met Mile Handicap could apply to the Beholder camp as well.