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Will Take Charge Well on Morning After Stirring Clark Handicap Victory

| Churchill Downs Communications | 11/30/2013 #
  • Will Take Charge (outside) collared Game On Dude at the finish of the Clark Handicap (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

  • D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Will Take Charge (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

  • Corey Lanerie, leading jockey of the Fall Meet (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

  • Leading Fall Meet trainer Mike Maker (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

  • Ken Ramsey and wife Sarah earned their 21st "Leading Owner" crown (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

On the morning after his dramatic, last-gasp victory over favored Game On Dude in the 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I), Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge was accepting peppermints from visitors and generally looking as if he was ready and eager for his next racing assignment.

Friday’s narrow victory in which the 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song powered through the final sixteenth of a mile to edge Game On Dude and other accomplished older rivals by a head, ended any suspense in regard to his chances of earning the Eclipse Award for the top U.S. 3-year-old of 2013.

The Clark was the finale of an old school racing campaign for the D. Wayne Lukas-trained star that started in January with a victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park and ended with the Clark, his eleventh race of the season.  In between, he won the Rebel (GII) at Oaklawn, muddled through the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown series in which he had little impact, and launched a second-half surge on the year that include victories in the Travers (GI), Pennsylvania Derby (GII) and heartbreaking runner-up finish to Mucho Macho Man in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita.

When he added the exclamation point on his late season rush by overtaking Horse of the Year contender Game On Dude in the Clark, conventional wisdom leaned toward an Eclipse Award for top 3-year-old being a certainty for Will Take Charge. And Bob Baffert, the trainer of Game On Dude, suggested after the Clark that Will Take Charge should be one of those under consideration for “Horse of the Year.”

Although he had been the center of big event and very significant win just hours earlier, Lukas said his colt was very well on Saturday morning.

“He’s very good,” Lukas said. “It’s amazing how composed and everything he was in the winner’s circle. He wasn’t blowing much, or anything.

“I think he struggled with the racetrack a little bit. But maybe the others did, too.”

The victory improved Will Take Charge’s record for his 3-year-old season to 11-5-2-0 with earnings just shy of $3 million at $2,960,977.

Lukas smiled at the notion of how close his durable colt had come to a $3 million season, and suggested, in jest, that he might have one more race in him.

“Well, Turfway’s about to open,” he said. “There’s always the ($50,000) Holiday Inaugural.”

That $50,000 race at the Northern Kentucky track is clearly not on the agenda for Will Take Charge, but Lukas was more confident on Saturday that the improving son of Unbridled’s Song out of the likely “Broodmare of the Year” Take Charge Lady would return to competition in 2014.

While Horton continues to negotiate on a deal for stallion duty for Will Take Charge when the colt ends his racing career, his Hall of Fame trainer is increasingly optimistic that fans will see the colt on the track again.

“We’ve got four farms that are very strong, interested players,” Lukas said. “What I think is gonna happen is either they’ll go partners (with Horton) and run him next year, or they’ll tie him up for the breeding shed and run him next year. I think Willis wants to run him next year. At first there was talk about an outright sale and take him to the breeding shed, but I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Taking that optimistic approach, Lukas said Will Take Charge will take it easy for a while and he would look for a race, probably in March, to launch a 2014 run for the colt. Until then, the glow of the sizzling stretch run that saw Will Take Charge collar Game On Dude in the last instant will be a moment to savor.

“It was a real good race for fans,” Lukas said. “With those two good horses and the way it came down, it was really good.”

The Clark victory, which was the first stakes victory for Lukas at Churchill Downs since 2009, makes the year of the resurgence of the 78-year-old Lukas all the more impressive. In all of Lukas’ stellar seasons in which he has topped the earnings list or trained one or more champions, he has never quite had a year like 2013.

“I think we did more with less than maybe most of the guys,” Lukas said. “Todd (Pletcher) had a great year and (Charlie) LoPresti was strong. But when you consider what we started with in the barn and look at our year, we had some very good days. But we had a lot of gaps in there between the big races. We didn’t have much in our barn to really say too much about. But I think to develop those three-or-four that we did – (Preakness winner) Oxbow, Will Take Charge and (2-year-old Hopeful winner) Strong Mandate – it’s not a bad run.”

TITLES IN ‘HUMAN RACES’ WRAPPED UP HEADING INTO CLOSING DAY – There will be no closing day drama in the three “human races” of the 2013 Fall Meet as the winners of the respective honors for leading jockey, trainer and owner were over heading into the autumn “getaway day.”

Corey Lanerie continued his career-best two-year run by earning his second consecutive Fall Meet crown and his fourth “Leading Jockey” crown in the past five Churchill Downs meets. The native of Lafayette, La. held a 33-20 lead heading into Saturday’s “Stars of Tomorrow II” meet finale over surging Julien Leparoux, who made a rapid climb in the standings after he moved back to the Kentucky racing circuit from Southern California in the second week of the five-week session.

The “Leading Trainer” trophy will go to Mike Maker, who began Saturday’s racing with a 16-13 lead over Bret Calhoun, who had led that category through the meet’s first four weeks.  The title is Maker’s third Fall Meet crown and his fifth overall.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey continued their rampage through the Churchill Downs record book with a runaway triumph in the race for the Fall Meet’s leading owner. The Nicholasville, Ky. couple had doubled-up current runner-up Maggi Moss with an 18-9 win advantage heading into Saturday’s finale.

On the morning after his dramatic, last-gasp victory over favored Game On Dude in the 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I), Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge was accepting peppermints from visitors and generally looking as if he was ready and eager for his next racing assignment.

Friday’s narrow victory in which the 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song powered through the final sixteenth of a mile to edge Game On Dude and other accomplished older rivals by a head, ended any suspense in regard to his chances of earning the Eclipse Award for the top U.S. 3-year-old of 2013.

The Clark was the finale of an old school racing campaign for the D. Wayne Lukas-trained star that started in January with a victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park and ended with the Clark, his eleventh race of the season.  In between, he won the Rebel (GII) at Oaklawn, muddled through the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown series in which he had little impact, and launched a second-half surge on the year that include victories in the Travers (GI), Pennsylvania Derby (GII) and heartbreaking runner-up finish to Mucho Macho Man in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita.

When he added the exclamation point on his late season rush by overtaking Horse of the Year contender Game On Dude in the Clark, conventional wisdom leaned toward an Eclipse Award for top 3-year-old being a certainty for Will Take Charge. And Bob Baffert, the trainer of Game On Dude, suggested after the Clark that Will Take Charge should be one of those under consideration for “Horse of the Year.”

Although he had been the center of big event and very significant win just hours earlier, Lukas said his colt was very well on Saturday morning.

“He’s very good,” Lukas said. “It’s amazing how composed and everything he was in the winner’s circle. He wasn’t blowing much, or anything.

“I think he struggled with the racetrack a little bit. But maybe the others did, too.”

The victory improved Will Take Charge’s record for his 3-year-old season to 11-5-2-0 with earnings just shy of $3 million at $2,960,977.

Lukas smiled at the notion of how close his durable colt had come to a $3 million season, and suggested, in jest, that he might have one more race in him.

"Well, Turfway’s about to open,” he said. “There’s always the ($50,000) Holiday Inaugural.”

That $50,000 race at the Northern Kentucky track is clearly not on the agenda for Will Take Charge, but Lukas was more confident on Saturday that the improving son of Unbridled’s Song out of the likely “Broodmare of the Year” Take Charge Lady would return to competition in 2014.

While Horton continues to negotiate on a deal for stallion duty for Will Take Charge when the colt ends his racing career, his Hall of Fame trainer is increasingly optimistic that fans will see the colt on the track again.

“We’ve got four farms that are very strong, interested players,” Lukas said. “What I think is gonna happen is either they’ll go partners (with Horton) and run him next year, or they’ll tie him up for the breeding shed and run him next year. I think Willis wants to run him next year. At first there was talk about an outright sale and take him to the breeding shed, but I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Taking that optimistic approach, Lukas said Will Take Charge will take it easy for a while and he would look for a race, probably in March, to launch a 2014 run for the colt. Until then, the glow of the sizzling stretch run that saw Will Take Charge collar Game On Dude in the last instant will be a moment to savor.

“It was a real good race for fans,” Lukas said. “With those two good horses and the way it came down, it was really good.”

The Clark victory, which was the first stakes victory for Lukas at Churchill Downs since 2009, makes the year of the resurgence of the 78-year-old Lukas all the more impressive. In all of Lukas’ stellar seasons in which he has topped the earnings list or trained one or more champions, he has never quite had a year like 2013.

“I think we did more with less than maybe most of the guys,” Lukas said. “Todd (Pletcher) had a great year and (Charlie) LoPresti was strong. But when you consider what we started with in the barn and look at our year, we had some very good days. But we had a lot of gaps in there between the big races. We didn’t have much in our barn to really say too much about. But I think to develop those three-or-four that we did – (Preakness winner) Oxbow, Will Take Charge and (2-year-old Hopeful winner) Strong Mandate – it’s not a bad run.”

TITLES IN ‘HUMAN RACES’ WRAPPED UP HEADING INTO CLOSING DAY – There will be no closing day drama in the three “human races” of the 2013 Fall Meet as the winners of the respective honors for leading jockey, trainer and owner were over heading into the autumn “getaway day.”

Corey Lanerie continued his career-best two-year run by earning his second consecutive Fall Meet crown and his fourth “Leading Jockey” crown in the past five Churchill Downs meets. The native of Lafayette, La. held a 33-20 lead heading into Saturday’s “Stars of Tomorrow II” meet finale over surging Julien Leparoux, who made a rapid climb in the standings after he moved back to the Kentucky racing circuit from Southern California in the second week of the five-week session.

The “Leading Trainer” trophy will go to Mike Maker, who began Saturday’s racing with a 16-13 lead over Bret Calhoun, who had led that category through the meet’s first four weeks.  The title is Maker’s third Fall Meet crown and his fifth overall.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey continued their rampage through the Churchill Downs record book with a runaway triumph in the race for the Fall Meet’s leading owner. The Nicholasville, Ky. couple had doubled-up current runner-up Maggi Moss with an 18-9 win advantage heading into Saturday’s finale.

The Ramseys swept all three 2013 meet titles at Churchill Downs to extend their record for total titles at the home of the Kentucky Derby to 21. Eleven of those trophies have been earned in the Fall Meet and they have either won outright or shared 11 of the past Fall Meet “Leading Owner” crowns.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            BARN TALK – Two mares that enjoyed the greatest moments of their respective racing careers on the main track at Churchill Downs were represented by offspring entered to run in Saturday’s “Stars of Tomorrow II” races devoted exclusively to races for 2-year-olds. Charles Fipke’s homebred Unbridled Forever, entered in the second race, is a daughter of Fipke’s Lemons Forever, who won the 2006 Kentucky Oaks (GI) for Horton Stable and co-owner-trainer Dallas Stewart. Lemons Forever won the Oaks under jockey Mark Guidry at odds of 47-1 and her $96.20 win payout for a $2 wager is the largest in the 139-year history of the race.  Stewart also trains Unbridled Forever, who finished fifth to Golden Rod (GII) hope Playful Love in her first career start on Oct. 27. Winchell ThoroughbredsGold Hawk, an Empire Maker colt entered in the 12th race by trainer Steve Asmussen, is a son of Caressing, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs in 2000 and was named that year’s champion 2-year-old filly. Owned by former Churchill Downs Incorporated board chair Carl Pollard and trained by David Vance, the daughter of Honour and Glory won that renewal of the Juvenile Fillies at odds of 47-1 under jockey John Velazquez. Lemons Forever ended her career with a record of 16-4-1-2 with earnings of $648,940, while Caressing’s career slate concluded at 5-2-3 in 18 races with earnings of $995,998 … With the conclusion of Churchill Downs’ Fall Meet, there will be no racing beneath the track’s Twin Spires until Saturday, April 26 – the opening night of Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week and the Spring Meet that will consist of 38 racing days and run through Sunday, June 29. The remaining Churchill Downs racing dates for 2014 approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission include the 12-day September Meet, set for Sept. 5-28, and the Fall Meet, a second consecutive 25-day session that will run from Sunday, Oct. 26 through Sunday, Nov. 30 … Simulcast wagering at Churchill Downs will move to The Parlay starting on Wednesday.

The Ramseys swept all three 2013 meet titles at Churchill Downs to extend their record for total titles at the home of the Kentucky Derby to 21. Eleven of those trophies have been earned in the Fall Meet and they have either won outright or shared 11 of the past Fall Meet “Leading Owner” crowns.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

BARN TALK – Two mares that enjoyed the greatest moments of their respective racing careers on the main track at Churchill Downs were represented by offspring entered to run in Saturday’s “Stars of Tomorrow II” races devoted exclusively to races for 2-year-olds. Charles Fipke’s homebred Unbridled Forever, entered in the second race, is a daughter of Fipke’s Lemons Forever, who won the 2006 Kentucky Oaks (GI) for Horton Stable and co-owner-trainer Dallas Stewart. Lemons Forever won the Oaks under jockey Mark Guidry at odds of 47-1 and her $96.20 win payout for a $2 wager is the largest in the 139-year history of the race.  Stewart also trains Unbridled Forever, who finished fifth to Golden Rod (GII) hope Playful Love in her first career start on Oct. 27. Winchell ThoroughbredsGold Hawk, an Empire Maker colt entered in the 12th race by trainer Steve Asmussen, is a son of Caressing, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs in 2000 and was named that year’s champion 2-year-old filly. Owned by former Churchill Downs Incorporated board chair Carl Pollard and trained by David Vance, the daughter of Honour and Glory won that renewal of the Juvenile Fillies at odds of 47-1 under jockey John Velazquez. Lemons Forever ended her career with a record of 16-4-1-2 with earnings of $648,940, while Caressing’s career slate concluded at 5-2-3 in 18 races with earnings of $995,998 … With the conclusion of Churchill Downs’ Fall Meet, there will be no racing beneath the track’s Twin Spires until Saturday, April 26 – the opening night of Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week and the Spring Meet that will consist of 38 racing days and run through Sunday, June 29. The remaining Churchill Downs racing dates for 2014 approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission include the 12-day September Meet, set for Sept. 5-28, and the Fall Meet, a second consecutive 25-day session that will run from Sunday, Oct. 26 through Sunday, Nov. 30 … Simulcast wagering at Churchill Downs will move to The Parlay starting on Wednesday.