Will Take Charge, who clinched Champion 3-Year-Old Male honors last year with a win at Churchill Downs in the $550,700 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I), was retired to Three Chimneys Farm on Sunday due to a mild strain to a branch of his suspensory apparatus.

In addition to the Clark Handicap, Will Take Charge’s impressive 2013 campaign included wins in the $150,000 Smarty Jones, $600,000 Rebel (GII), $1 million Travers (GI) and $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (GII). He also was beaten a nose by Mucho Macho Man in the $4.6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). He ran 11 times in 11 months at eight different racetracks.

This year’s six-race 4-year-old campaign included a win in the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (GII) and a trio of seconds in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (GI), $750,500 Santa Anita Handicap (GI) and $552,500 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI).

Will Take Charge, a chestnut colt with a big white blaze owned by Willis Horton and Three Chimneys Farm, finished third behind Moreno and Itsmyluckyday in the $1.5 million Whitney (GI) at Saratoga on Aug. 2 – his final start.

His last breeze came Sept. 10 at Churchill Downs, clocking five-eighths of a mile in 1:00.40 – the fastest of 21 at the distance. “The work was excellent,” his Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said at the time. “It was one of his best on this track; I was really pleased with it.”

Overall, the son of Unbridled’s Song out of champion broodmare Take Charge Lady finished his career with a record of 21-7-6-1—$3,924,648, winning from seven furlongs to 1 ¼ miles.

“Will Take Charge’s retirement is particularly disappointing as we were primed, as an older horse, to win the Classic this year which we lost by a whisker last year,” Lukas said in a news release issued by Three Chimneys on Sunday. “If the race were a mile-and-a-quarter and two inches, Will Take Charge’s career earnings would be at nearly $6 million. This horse has done what few other horses can do any more. He is a different kind of Unbridled’s Song. He defeated the best three-year-olds in the country in the Travers and then the best older horses in the Classic. He is a true Champion who ran to his blue-blooded pedigree. He proved himself to be the best of his generation. He is a proud addition to my resume.”

“Will Take Charge is a horse of a lifetime, and I can’t say enough about how ‘hickory’ he has been, starting 21 times all across the country against the stiffest competition time after time,” Horton said. “We have had the time of our lives with him, and met wonderful people all across America. He’s been a real fan favorite, and we think he’ll be a Kentucky breeders’ favorite too! I also can’t compliment Wayne enough on this exceptionally talented horse into a Champion. It’s been one heck of a ride.”

A stud fee for the 2015 breeding season has not yet been announced.

CIGAR STREET READY FOR RETURN TO STAKES IN HOMECOMING CLASSIC

Jake Ballis and Rashard Lewis’ graded stakes winner Cigar Street is expected to ship to Churchill Downs on Thursday for a start in Saturday’s $125,000-added Homecoming Classic for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

Cigar Street’s second-place finish in an allowance event at Saratoga on Aug. 22 was his first start in 17 months. Sent off as the odds-on favorite, Cigar Street got out to an early lead on the muddy track, posting modest fractions of :24.83, :49.57 and 1:13.60. The 5-year-old son of Street Sense held onto the lead until the final stages, but was then caught by Pick of the Litter, who crossed the wire a half-length in front.

“There really wasn’t a plan for him in Saratoga since he had been off for 17 months,” Ballis said. “No one knew if he was going to like the mud either, but he’s always either been on the lead or lay pretty close.

“Before the race, Johnny Velasquez just said he was going to let him break and get in a comfortable spot. He said he wasn’t going to beat him up down the lane or anything; he just wanted to get him around and see how he would do after 17 months. He ran as well or better than I expected him to run though.”

Ballis said he would let the horse and rider dictate their own running style on Saturday, but expects them to be close.

“I think it will be similar on Saturday,” Ballis said. “We can go to the lead or lay off. He’s won going gate-to-wire at Gulfstream and Fair Grounds, and then his other two wins he sat off, so he’s versatile. I think it will be a good stepping stone for him. I think it’s good to have him back in stakes-company even though it’s not graded. We’ll see how he does and how he comes out of it and then we’ll get a plan together for him for the rest of the year and early next year.”

Ballis said he would wait and see how the Homecoming Classic goes before making a decision on his colt’s next start, but that the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) was not out of the question. He also mentioned that the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic would be ideal for Cigar Street.

“He can run all day long,” Ballis said. “I think a mile-and-a-quarter is an ideal distance for him; he has a high-cruising speed. If he wins impressively I don’t think the Breeders’ Cup Classic is out of the question. We’ll see how it goes.”

In addition to Cigar Street, who’ll be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, others entered in the Homecoming Classic are Call Me George (Leandro Goncalves), Carve (Jesus Castanon), Departing (Robby Albarado), Perfect Title (Brian Hernandez Jr.) and Pick of the Litter (Julien Leparoux).

ALMOST FAMOUS TO TEST THE TURF IN SATURDAY’S JEFFERSON CUP

Coming off a fourth-place effort in the $300,000 Smarty Jones (Grade III) at Parx, Chuck and Maribeth Sandford LLC’s Almost Famous will make his turf debut in Saturday’s $100,000-added Jefferson Cup (GIII) at Churchill Downs, according to trainer Pat Byrne.

“He’s been doing great,” Byrne said. “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to work him on the turf, but he has two siblings that have both won on turf, so we’re hoping he takes to it well.”

Prior to his Smarty Jones performance, Almost Famous placed third in the $300,000 Ohio Derby and third in the $109,400 Matt Winn (GIII).

“We thought about some other races, but with this one being restricted to 3-year-olds, we figured we’d take a shot,” Byrne said. “We’ll see how it goes. If he likes the grass he should be right there.”

Seven other 3-year-old colts were entered Sunday for the Jefferson Cup in Battlefront, Captain Dixie, Heart to Heart, Hesinfront, Speightsland, Sportscaster and Stormy Pacific.

While Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel has ridden Almost Famous in four of his five starts under the Twin Spires, Byrne said Joe Rocco Jr. would get the call for Saturday’s Jefferson Cup.

“I think we’re going to get Joe Rocco to ride him just to mix things up,” Byrne said. “He’s been on him once before so hopefully he can guide him to a win on Saturday.”

JON COURT EYES RETURN TO THE TRACK AFTER BROKEN HAND

After suffering a broken right hand in the final race at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, jockey Jon Court is awaiting medical clearance Tuesday and hopes to return to race riding as early as Friday.

“The hand’s been feeling a lot better,” Court said. “I’ve been galloping a few horses and it’s been just a little sore, but hopefully I can get back on some mounts next weekend.”

Court, 53, said he is taking calls for next weekend, although he still is awaiting clearance from a medical examiner on Tuesday.

“I have to take calls since next weekend is the last one here,” Court said. “I talked to my doctor (Saturday) and asked him if I’d be good to go; he answered ‘I’ll see you Tuesday.’”

Court is the 15th-ranked jockey in career wins at Churchill Downs with 448.

ODDS AND ENDS

Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing worked a half-mile in :48.80 Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, his final workout ahead of Saturday’s $125,000-added Homecoming Classic… Ken and Sarah Ramsey tied Maggi Moss in the race for leading owner when their Thank You Marylou took the $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII) Saturday. Both owners have tallied five wins with four days remaining in the September meet… Body soreness caused jockey Francisco Torres to take off of all mounts on Sunday’s Churchill Downs card due to an incident that occurred Saturday at Indiana Grand. … Happy birthday to trainer Charlie LoPresti, who celebrated No. 57 on Sunday.

 

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