Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge, runner-up in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita last time out, breezed four furlongs Saturday at Churchill Downs in preparation for a bid for a second Grade I victory of his 3-year-old season in the 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) on Friday, Nov. 29.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained chestnut son of Unbridled’s Song covered the distance over a “fast” track in :49 in his first major training move since he lost by a nose to Mucho Macho Man in the Nov. 2 Classic. The work by Will Take Charge came just after the mid-training hours break for track maintenance and ranked 35th of 84 on a busy morning beneath the track’s signature Twin Spires.
Exercise rider Rudy Quevelos was in the saddle as Will Take Charge covered the distance in fractional times of :12 and :23.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:04.80.
Lukas confirmed that Will Take Charge, winner of the Travers (GI) and Pennsylvania Derby (GII) before his narrow loss in the Classic, would run against older foes in the 1 1/8-mile Clark.
As he did in the Classic, Will Take Charge would face older rivals in the Clark, a race for 3-year-olds and up. The group is expected to include Game On Dude, who was the front-runner for Horse of the Year honors before he ran ninth in the Classic, and older foes that include Bourbon Courage, who was a close third to Shackleford and Take Charge Indy in the 2012 Clark, and stakes veterans Prayer for Relief and Finnegan’s Wake.
“The timing is pretty good,” Lukas said. “I almost wish there was more to the season, because he is good right now. It’s a prestigious race in many ways. It’s a Grade I and if we could get another Grade I against older competition around two turns, I think it would be significant.”
Lukas believes Will Take Charge is the frontrunner for the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old following his near-miss run in this year’s memorable Classic. The colt experienced traffic problems on the far turn, and Lukas contends that those issues probably cost him the victory.
But the Hall of Fame trainer believes a win in the Clark would seal the deal and his maturing colt is very capable of completing that task.
“He’s light,” Lukas said. “He’s rangy, but he’s starting to get a little bit more muscle tone to him and filling out. He stays into the feed tub and does everything you’d like, but a lot of these gangly athletes don’t get good until they get older, and that’s the way he is.”
“He’s better mentally, too. He now has got the idea that if he clocks them and you set him down at the top of the stretch, he finishes. To run down those horses – Game On Dude and Mucho Macho Man and those type horses – in the stretch like did after getting bumped and pushed out (in the Classic) was significant. I mean, he was running.”
Lukas used the Clark to wrap-up a championship season in 2000 for Overbrook Farm’s Surfside, who was named the nation’s top 3-year-old filly after she wrapped up her season with a victory over males in the Clark. While Lukas acknowledges that there could be implications for the race for champion 3-year-old of 2013, with now-retired Kentucky Derby winner Orb as the other logical contender, he insists the run in the Clark goes beyond a hope to guarantee an Eclipse Award for Will Take Charge.
“I think he’s already sealed it,” Lukas said. “I would rather take the position that the Clark is a significant race with Grade I status and a nice purse, and an opportunity to showcase our horse again.
“I’ve been dealing with six or seven different farms that are interested in standing this horse. None of them at any time said to me, ‘Well, if he’s 3-year-old champion, what about that?’ That has never come up in the conversation. They’re looking at the merit of what we’ve already done, the body of work we’ve already done.”
Will Take Charge heads into the Clark with record of 14-5-3-0 with earnings of $2,727,371.
Two other possible starters in the Clark Handicap breezed at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Bourbon Lane Stable’s Bourbon Courage worked five furlongs in 1:00.20, the second fastest move of 48 at the distance. The son of Lion Heart worked in fractional times of :24.80 and :36.40, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.20 and 1:27.40. Bourbon Courage won the Super Derby (GII) at three and was runner-up in both the Indiana Derby (GII) and West Virginia Derby (GII).
Donegal Racing’s Finnegans Wake worked five furlongs for trainer Dale Romans in 1:01.50. The 4-year-old son of Powerscourt (GB) finished fourth in his most recent start over Keeneland’s Polytrack in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (GII).
JONES’ EYES ON FALLS CITY PRIZE FOR KENTUCKY OAKS WINNER BELIEVE YOU CAN – Trainer Larry Jones had a visitor at Churchill Downs to watch a Saturday work by Believe You Can, the winner of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks (GI) and a candidate for the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII) on the Thanksgiving Day racing program at the Louisville track on Thursday, Nov. 28.
The visitor was not an impartial observer. Former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones looked on as his homebred filly worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 over a fast track under the guidance of jockey Alan Garcia. The move ranked as seventh-fastest of 48 at the distance.
The 4-year-old daughter Proud Citizen covered three-eighths of a mile in :35.80 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.40.
And Jones, the trainer, said the plan is for Believe You Can to celebrate Thanksgiving at Churchill Downs.
“That’s our game plan,” he said. “We’ll just keep our fingers crossed that all continues to go well.
“Our galloping out was what we hadn’t been doing, but she galloped out much better today. We’ve got time for one more work next Saturday and we’ll know for darned sure, but she’s moving along kind of like we thought she should and could.”
The Falls City would be the fourth career start at Churchill Downs for Believe You Can. She ran sixth at two in the Pocahontas and returned five months later to win her historic running of the Oaks under jockey Rosie Napravnik, who became the first woman to ride an Oaks winner. She returned this spring to run third behind Authenticity and On Fire Baby in the $300,000-added La Troienne (GII), a Kentucky Oaks Day race in which Believe You Can experienced a troubled start.
The work could work out to be an audition for Garcia as Napravik, Believe You Can’s regular racing partner, could be busy elsewhere on Thanksgiving Day. Jones said she could be riding the talented sprinter Delaunay in Fair Grounds’ Thanksgiving Day Handicap.
After the Falls City, Jones plans to point Believe You Can to Sam Houston Race Park’s $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic on Jan. 25, a race Larry Jones won this year with Joyful Victory. After that, the trainer will wait to see what happens.
“I don’t know whether she’ll train all year (in 2014) – he’s (Brereton Jones) been talking about breeding her,” Larry Jones said. “She will be bred next year, but she’s got some racing left in her.”
Another Falls City candidate in action on Saturday was Preston Stables LLC’s Flashy American, who breezed four furlongs in :48.20 for trainer Kenny McPeek. Flashy American won Churchill Downs’ Locust Grove in September.
KING DAVID TOPS RIVER CITY WEIGHTS – Scarlet Stable’s King David, winner of the Jamaica (GI) at three, was assigned high weight of 121 pounds for next Saturday’s 36th running of the $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII) for older horses on turf at 1 1/8 miles. The Mike Maker trainee won a September allowance race at Churchill Downs last time out.
Mill Ridge Farm’s defending River City winner Keep Up was assigned 117 pounds. Bunched at 118 pounds are 2012 Firecracker Handicap (GII) winner Guys Reward, Air Support, Cyber Secret and Daddy Nose Best. Others assigned 117 include Coalport, Grand Arch, Plainview, and Skyring.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) runner-up Laugh Track breezed four furlong in :47.20 … Medal Count, 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), breezed a half-mile in :47 …Uncaptured, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Jockey Club, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 … Street Sense winner Coastline worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 …. At Trackside, Secretariat (GI() winner Admiral Kitten breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40.