Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge, a top contender for the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) on Nov. 30, was on the Churchill Downs track the instant it opened at 6 a.m. (all times EST) on Friday for his final work for next week’s race.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of Unbridled’s Song breezed five furlongs in 1:01 over a good racing surface to complete his major training for the Clark. The move by runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and winner of the Travers (GI).
Regular exercise rider Rudy Quevelos was up for the move, which ranked as seventh-fastest of 23 at the distance on a misty and cool morning.
Will Take Charge covered the distance in fractional splits of :12.40, :24, and :35.40 and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.40.
A weather forecast that included rain and tumbling temperatures over the next three days prompted Lukas to move the work up a day from Saturday, to Friday. The Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner was happy with the result.
“He just ran,” Lukas said. “It’s 27 days from the Breeders’ Cup to the Clark, so he really didn’t need a lot.”
The work made Friday another good in in what Lukas has described as a strong week for the improving colt who is a contender for the Eclipse Award that honors the nation’s best 3-year-old.
“He’s really thriving and it’s kind of surprising,” Lukas said. “I thought maybe the Breeders’ Cup would set him back and we might have to give him a month or so to fill up, but that hasn’t been the case. I don’t know if it’s because he’s home here and he’s eating better, but he’s really had a good three or four weeks.”
The Clark will be the second meeting between Will Take Charge and the Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude, who remains on the short list of contenders for the Eclipse Award for top older male and was the favorite for Horse of the Year prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
\Will Take Charge was beaten by a nose by Mucho Macho Man in the Classic, while Game On Dude faltered to finish ninth.
With a week remaining before the Clark, the roster of known probable starters for the race includes (with trainers): Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder), Easter Gift (Chad Brown), Finnegans Wake (Romans), Game On Dude (Bob Baffert), Golden Ticket (Kenny McPeek), Prayer for Relief (Steve Asmussen) and Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas). Possible: Jaguar Paw (Stephen Lyster).
GAME ON DUDE ASSIGNED HIGH WEIGHT FOR CLARK – Game On Dude and Will Take Charge were assigned high weights for next Friday’s 140th running of the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.
The Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude, a three-time Grade I winner this year, was assigned high weight of 126 pounds for the Clark by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman, three pounds more than the 3-year-old Will Take Charge, winner of the Travers (GI) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI).
Baffert said Game On Dude would work over the weekend at Santa Anita. He’ll consider that work and the weight assignments in making a final decision on the trip to Churchill Downs for the Clark.
“They’ve weighted him like he’s Horse of the Year, so I guess that’s a compliment,” Baffert said by telephone. “I’m glad Ben Huffman is not down on the horse, like everyone else is.”
Assigned weights for other likely or possible starters in the Clark include: Golden Ticket, 120; Prayer for Relief, 118, Bourbon Courage, 117; Easter Gift, 116; Finnegans Wake, 116 and Jaguar Paw, 115.
OAKS WINNER BELIEVE YOU CAN GETS CHECK-UP; WINE PRINCESS ‘LEANING TOWARD’ FALLS CITY RUN – Brereton C. Jones’ homebred Believe You Can, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks (GI) is getting a little rest at Jones’ Airdrie Stud and will undergo a medical check-up after trainer J. Larry Jones declared her out of a planned run in the $150,000-add Falls City Handicap (GII) on Thanksgiving Day. Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Larry Jones had been enthusiastic about Believe You Can’s planned return to racing in the Falls City following a five-furlong work in 1:00.80 at Churchill Downs last Saturday. Believe You Can last competed in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (GI) on May 27 at Belmont Park, where she ran sixth to Tiz Miz Sue. She has a career record of 14-8-0-2 and has earned $1,280,324.
Jones felt good about Believe You Can’s progress until Monday, when he was in the saddle when she returned to the track for a gallop.
“She galloped out a mile (in the work) and I was very pleased with it,” Jones said. “The next day she ate and did everything right, but she was knocked out. She wouldn’t hang her head out of the stall, but it was okay – there was no heat or anything. Then the next day I galloped her and she galloped okay, but boy, when horses would come by her she had nothing. She wouldn’t even try to go with them and that’s not her.
“Then when she did that a second day in a row, I told Brery that she’s not going to be ready to run Thursday.”
Jones is awaiting results of the tests performed on Believe You Can, which he hopes will explain her lack of enthusiasm in her training and what it could mean for her future.
“We’ll find whether its broodmare time – they’re going to do some blood work,” he said. “She’s perfectly sound. Maybe she was getting sick. It’s just one of those deals – you know that she was not going to be racing in 10 days. Hopefully, she’s just got a little bug.”
Meanwhile, Becky Winemiller’s Falls City candidate Wine Princess breezed five furlongs in 1:02.60 over the good Churchill Downs surface on Friday, and trainer Steve Margolis said his 4-year-old filly was now “leaning toward” staying at her home track for a Falls City run that would likely be the final race of her career.
Margolis is also considering a trip to Woodbine by the daughter of Horses of the Year Ghostzapper and Azeri for the $150,000 Bessarabian Stakes (GII), a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up to be run on Sunday, Dec. 1.
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan was aboard for Friday’s work in which Wine Princess covered the distance in fractional splits of :13.20, :25.80 and :38.20 and galloped-out six furlongs in 1:15.60.
“She worked good,” Margolis said. “Shaun just kind of gave her a maintenance work.
“After hearing that Believe You Can won’t run, we’re kind of leaning more now toward staying here,” Margolis said. “The beauty is we’ve got a little time on our side. We’ll make sure she comes out of the work good. We might even enter in the Falls City and take a look. We wouldn’t have to leave until late afternoon on Monday.”
So Margolis will keep a close eye on his regally-bred filly and work to make the best possible choice what will likely be her farewell to the track before she launches a new career as a broodmare at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm.
"We know she likes this racetrack, we know she’s here,” Margolis said. “I think we’re leaning toward running here, but we’ll make an official decision on Sunday.”
Also appearing on the work tab was G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s Ice Cream Silence, who breezed a quick half-mile in :47, the best of 63 training moves at the distance. The Rusty Arnold-trained daughter of Street Sense is listed as “possible” for the Falls City.
Known starters for the 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares on Thursday, Nov. 28 (with trainers) include: Don’t Tell Sophia (Philip Sims), Flashy American (Kenny McPeek), and Magic Hour (Ian Wilkes). Possible: Ice Cream Silence (Rusty Arnold), My Option (Chris Block), Street Girl (Eddie Kenneally), Molly Morgan (Dale Romans), Owl Moon (Romans) and Wine Princess (Steve Margolis).
LUKAS LOOKING AT KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is considering a run in the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) for a pair of colts in his barn, both of which are searching for their first career victories.
Lukas said Friday that he would consider the 1 1/16-mile race for Calumet Farm’s All Cash and Tom Van Meter II and Rickey Stivers’ Bro Rodrigeaux.
All Cash is an English Channel ridgling who raced five times without a win, but two of those outings have been in stakes competition. He ran fourth on turf to Poker Player in Keeneland’s Bourbon Stakes (GIII) on Oct. 6, then finished last of 12 behind Outstrip (GB) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) at Santa Anita.
Bro Rodrigeaux is a son of Tale of the Cat with three starts on his resume. The most recent was a runner-up finish to possible KJC entrant Sheikinator on last Saturday’s Downs After Dark racing program.
Known probable starters for the 87th running of the $175,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds on Saturday, Nov. 30 (Stars of Tomorrow II/Closing Day) (with trainers): Almost Famous (Pat Byrne), Awesome Sky (Mark Casse), Dobra Historia (Bill Mott) and Laddie Boy (Chuck Peery). Possible: All Cash (D. Wayne Lukas) Bro Rodrigeaux (Lukas) Culprit (Dale Romans), Financial Mogul (Rick Violette Jr.), and Ichiban Warrior (Todd Pletcher), Sheikinator (Ken McPeek).
MADLY TRULY SHARP IN WORK FOR GOLDEN ROD – John C. Oxley’s Madly Truly, winner of the Mazarine (GIII) over Woodbine’s Polytrack surface in her last start, was sharp on Friday at Churchill Downs in her final work for the $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) on the “Stars of Tomorrow II” program on Saturday, Nov. 30.
The Mark Casse-trained daughter of Malibu Moon zipped five furlongs in :59.60 over a good track, a move that ranked as third-fastest of 23 at the distance.
“It was a fast work,” said Norman Casse, the son of Mark Casse and the assistant trainer who oversees his Churchill Downs stable. “I thought she did it fairly easily and it went very well.”
Madly Truly rallied from last to win the Mazarine and to finish a close fourth in her previous start in Woodbine’s Natalma Stakes (GII). But the Golden Rod will be the first race on dirt for Madly Truly since her June 20 debut at Churchill Downs, where was much closer in the early going before she finished fourth to eventual Pocahontas (GII) winner Untapable.
“We’ve always held her in high regard as one of our better fillies, so we know she likes the surface,” Casse said. “It may be that she’s better on the dirt than she is the ‘Poly.’”
Known probable starters for the Golden Rod (with trainers) include: Bird Maker (Ian Wilkes), Canaryinacoalmine (Steve Margolis), Madly Truly (Casse), Naïve Enough (Ignacio Correas IV), Playful Love (Wilkes), Stonetastic (Kelly Breen), Streethomealabama (McPeek) and Vexed (Al Stall Jr.). Possible: Daddy’s Memory (Cecil Borel), Room Service (Wayne Catalano) and Spangled Banner (Eoin Harty).
HORSES & HOPE RETURNS SUNDAY – “Horses and Hope,” the initiative created in 2008 by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the Pink Stable, will return on Sunday (Nov. 24). The mission is to increase breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky’s horse industry workers and their families. The color of pink will be scattered throughout Churchill Downs that day, including saddle towels for a featured race, jockey arm bands, groom’s vests, outriders, the bugler, flags, bunting and trophies for winning horse owners. To help celebrate, Churchill Downs’ world famous Twin Spires will be bathed in pink light, as well. Also, the 2014 Kentucky Oaks Lily glasses will debut that day.
BARN TALK – Jockey Joe Rocco Jr. missed a fourth consecutive day of riding on Friday. He was injured in a starting gate mishap on Sunday. … Little Mike, winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) and Arlington Million (GI) and this year’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (GI) at Belmont Park, returned to the work tab on Saturday with a five-furlong breeze for trainer Dale Romans in 1:03.20. The move over a good track was the first work for Little Mike since a seventh-place finish behind Magician (IRE) in his Breeders’ Cup Turf defense on Nov. 2. … Another Breeders’ Cup veteran on the Saturday work tab was Gary Barber and WinStar Farm’s Laugh Track, the runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) for trainer Mark Casse. The son of Distorted Humor work five furlongs in 1:00, the fourth-fastest breeze of 23 at the distance. … Reserved indoor premium seating at Churchill Downs is going fast for closing weekend. Thanksgiving Day is nearly sold out. Some $37.50 seats with Chef’s Table dining in Skye Terrace 6 and the Winn Show Place Lounge on the second floor clubhouse remain for Friday, Nov. 29. Inventory is still available for Saturday, Nov. 30, which doubles as Stars of Tomorrow II and Closing Day … A reminder: Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be held Wednesday, Nov. 27 through Saturday, Nov. 30. The 23 individual wagering interests will be announced Monday (Nov. 25). The pool will open Nov. 27 at noon and close Nov. 30 prior to post time for either the Remsen at Aqueduct or Kentucky Jockey Club, whichever comes first … Sunday’s final Family Fun Day Presented by Kroger of the Fall Meet will feature a petting zoo, pony-pulled sleigh rides and a special appearance by Santa Claus. Kiddos also can decorate holiday ornaments. The activities will take place in the Plaza and Plaza Balcony from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.