Wise Dan Owner Fink a Man of Inner Strength

23 November, 01:11
Morton Fink, a kind and compassionate man who will be remembered for his quick wit and remarkable inner strength, died Nov. 20 at the age of 89.

The Chicago native bred and owned two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, whose thrilling career resulted in six Eclipse Award championships.

Fink was born Dec. 3, 1929. He was the beloved husband of Elaine Fink for 51 years. He graduated from Roosevelt University with a degree in business administration and built Kiddytown Amusement Park, which opened in 1953 in Norridge, Ill., as his first entrepreneurial venture. He loved the movies and made a business out of that passion, building Golf Mill Theatres 1-2-3 in Niles, Ill., and Chicago Ridge Theatres. He sold the movie theater business to a national chain in 1986.

Wise Dan was the culmination of a lifelong love of racing for Fink, who was introduced to the sport by his mother when he was a child. In the early 1970s, he ventured into ownership when he purchased a $4,000 claimer with a group of friends. His equine interests blossomed into Carelaine Farm, a banner under which he bred and raced horses with partner Roy Gottlieb for more than 20 years. Their top horses included multiple graded stakes winner Annoconnor, a daughter of Nureyev who raced to earnings of more than $1 million. They also bred group 1 winner Producer, a Nashua mare who ran in Europe and was sold in 1983 in foal to Northern Dancer for $5.25 million.

After Carelaine Farm dispersed in 1993, Fink kept a few horses of his own, including the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, named after his granddaughter. She produced four winners, one of them the stakes-winning Our Royal Dancer, before a 2005 mating with Successful Appeal resulted in eventual grade 2 winner Successful Dan. But it was a 2006 mating with Wiseman's Ferry, a stallion Fink campaigned in partnership with Swifty Farms and Del Ridge, that produced the once-in-a-lifetime runner Wise Dan, who became Fink's pride and joy.

Trained by Charlie LoPresti, Wise Dan won the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) in 2012 and 2013. He took 19 graded stakes overall, 11 of them at the grade 1 level, on dirt and turf while racing from 3 to 7. He won Horse of the Year, champion grass horse, and champion older horse titles in 2012 and then again in 2013, and retired with $7,552,920 in earnings. He was elected to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2016. Successful Dan also raced from 3-7 (but not at 5) and retired with $998,154 in earnings.

"Wise Dan definitely added years to my father's life," said Bonnie Marcus, one of Fink's three children. "It gave him and Elaine something really fun to look forward to, and he was really proud of owning that horse. He knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and he was just thrilled, after being involved with so many horses, that he got that chance to race his once-in-a-lifetime horse."

"The horse always came first with Mr. Fink," said LoPresti, who along with his wife Amy still cares for retirees Wise Dan and Successful Dan. "He used to tell me all the time, 'I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd have a horse like that,' and I used to tell him, 'I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd train a horse like that.'

"He never, ever put any pressure on me. When to run, when not to run, what kind of breeze schedule he trained on, that horse's whole campaign, he left that up to me. He was excited about the horse. There were ups and downs, but he never took the news of a setback bad. He always said it was part of the game, we'd always have to look to the future and do what was best for the horse. He was all for bringing him home every winter and giving him a break.

"Mr. Fink was very, very good to me and Amy over the years, and we were all rewarded with that horse at the end. It was a magnificent ride with both Wise Dan and Successful Dan."

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association named Lisa Danielle the Kentucky Broodmare of the Year in 2013. She died Feb. 7 at Patchen Wilkes Farm at the age of 25. Her progeny, all Fink homebreds, earned $9,450,990 collectively as racehorses.

Fink was a regular at Arlington International Racecourse and later in his life at Trackside, Arlington's offtrack betting parlor, where he would watch the races with Elaine every Saturday. He was known in his community as a man of honor and courage who fought long and hard to live every moment he could to the fullest.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The American Kidney Fund or any organization working on behalf of prostate cancer.