Willis Horton's Will Take Charge was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the Churchill Downs barn of trainer D. Wayne Lukas the morning after winning the Nov. 29 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (gr. I). His Hall of Fame conditioner said victory over older males in the 1 1/8-mile event seemed to have taken little out of the top 3-year-old contender.
The strapping chestnut son of Unbridled's Song and multiple grade I winner Take Charge Lady, will head to Lukas' winter base of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. next week along with the rest of the string.
With a hearty 11-race campaign under his belt that included victories in the Smarty Jones Stakes, Rebel Stakes (gr. II), Travers Stakes (gr. I), Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II), and the Clark, Will Take Charge will likely recieve honors as the season's outstanding 3-year-old male. The colt also posted runner-up finishes in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) and Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), and ran in all three Triple Crown races
"Boy, he pulled up good," Lukas said of his contender's return from the Clark. "He wasn't even stressed or dilated or blowing or anything. I was amazed. It was almost like he did it workmanlike and then said, 'Well, that was what I was supposed to do, the last little bit.' We were marveling (at how he came back). A lot of horses are blowing pretty hard, especially when the track is loose like that. He pulled up beautifully."
Horton and Lukas remain bullish on the idea of racing Will Take Charge in 2014, although offers from multiple farms are on the table for a stud deal.
"There could be some argument to tie him up next year in the breeding shed, but I think he'll race next year; maybe in a partnership," Lukas said. "He's going to leave here in a week for Hot Springs and we'll locate at Hot Springs with the rest of the stable; they're all going there. Then I'm going to take a serious look at the (March 8) Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). We'll also look at Dubai, because he ran so well on the synthetic."
As a 2-year-old, Will Take Charge broke his maiden at Keeneland going seven furlongs on the Polytrack. The $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) on March 29 is run on a Tapeta surface at Meydan.
Clark runner-up Game On Dude also appeared in good shape the morning of Nov. 30 as he circled the shedrow in the barn reserved for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's Churchill shippers. The 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding who lost by a head is to remain at Churchill for one day and load up and leave the barn area around 11 a.m. EST Dec. 1 to catch a Louisville flight back to California.