Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan gets back into action Saturday night in the $150,000 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs, a race he won two years ago. The mile turf race attracted seven challengers to face the champion gelding.
Owned by Morton Fink, Wise Dan will be making his first start since capturing the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day eight weeks back. The 6-year-old gelding, trained by Charles LoPresti, will once again be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and break from post 2.
Wise Dan began his 2013 campaign by winning the Maker's 46 Mile turf race on April 12 at Keeneland before taking the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 4. He can become the first horse to win the Firecracker twice.
The winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Mile has posted 15 wins in 22 lifetime starts for $4,059,631. Wise Dan will carry 128 pounds, 11 to 15 more than his competition.
Making just his second start of 2013 will be Lea, winner of last year's Commonwealth at Churchill. The 4-year-old, trained by Al Stall Jr., will start from post 4 with Brian Hernandez Jr. riding.
Owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Lea made his seasonal debut just four weeks ago with a a 3 1/4-length victory in an allowance event over a sloppy track that was originally slated for the turf.
"There was nothing wrong with him. We just gave him a freshening, so they usually come back pretty decent," Stall explained. "We're excited. He's ready for the second half of the year."
Lea has banked $234,928 with four wins in six career starts.
Returning to turf racing will be Seruni, defeated favorite last month in the Hanshin Cup at Arlington Park.
The 6-year-old gelding, trained by Philip Oliver, will be ridden by Corey Lanerie from post 7.
Fourth as the 5-2 favorite in the Hanshin, Seruni has not raced on grass since a stakes race last September at Kentucky Downs. Since then he's had two starts each on both dirt and synthetic surfaces with three fourth-place finishes and a win on April 30 over Churchill's main track.
Owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. & St. George Farm Racing, Seruni was second in last year's Firecracker behind Guys Reward. The chestnut gelding has won six of 24 lifetime starts for $332,484.
In post position order here is the field for the Firecracker: Corporate Jungle, Alan Garcia; Wise Dan, John Velazquez; Dimension, Victor Lebron; Lea, Brian Hernandez Jr.; Finnegans Wake, Jesus Castanon; Daddy Nose Best, Rosie Napravnik; Seruni, Corey Lanerie and Ol Army, Jon Court.
Post-time for the Firecracker will be approximately 10:11 p.m. (ET).