Last year Take Charge Indy created one of the more notable surprises on the road to the Triple Crown, leading from start to finish to capture the Florida Derby (gr. I), with what were then two of the most prominent Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hopefuls—Union Rags and El Padrino —back in third and fourth.
Take Charge Indy duly took his place in the Derby lineup. Fourth through three-quarters of a mile, the colt’s challenge faltered when jockey Calvin Borel noticed something amiss and eased his mount, Take Charge Indy eventually coming home 19th. Operated on, the week after the first classic, to remove a bone chip from a left front ankle, Take Charge Indy was sidelined for more than five months, returning to finish third in the Fayette Stakes (gr. II). He’s since underlined his grade I credentials with a second, a length behind the year older Shackleford , in last November’s Clark Handicap (gr. I), and a third in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) on his only start of 2013.
Less than a year after Take Charge Indy first made his mark on the classic scene, his half brother Will Take Charge set forth his Derby credentials, defying his 28-1 odds to run down his better fancied stable-companion—fellow D. Wayne Lukas trainee Oxbow —to claim the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) by a head.
Will Take Charge’s record to date is of a talented, but rather inconsistent, performer. He broke his maiden over seven furlongs at Keeneland on his second juvenile outing, after finishing fifth in a Saratoga sprint on his August debut. Trying stakes company in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II), Will Take Charge was toward the rear throughout, eventually coming home last of 13. Closing out his first campaign in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes, Will Take Charge produced a better effort, taking second, 1 3/4 lengths back of the winner, Texas Bling (who finished fourth behind Will Take Charge in the Rebel). Will Take Charge’s first stakes win came Jan. 21 in the Smarty Jones stakes at Oaklawn Park, when he ran down Texas Bling to score by a neck in a three-way photo. On his only other outing, Will Take Charge appeared not to handle the sealed track when a distant sixth to runaway winner Super Ninety Nine (unplaced as favorite in the Rebel) Feb. 18 in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III).
As Take Charge Indy, is as his name suggests, a son of A.P. Indy, his stamina was taken somewhat for granted. That is not the case for Will Take Charge, who is by Unbridled's Song, a horse who, for all his talent as a runner and prowess as stallion, does not have the happiest of histories in the Kentucky Derby. Narrow winner over Hennessy in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) on only his third start at 2, Unbridled’s Song started favorite for the 1996 Run For the Roses after taking the Florida Derby (gr. I)—by 5 3/4 lengths over Editor’s Note, Skip Away, and Louis Quatorze—and Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. II). Running in an egg bar shoe to protect a problematic foot, Unbridled’s Song stalked Honour and Glory through the early fractions, took command after a mile, but then faded to fifth behind the upset winner, his paternal half brother Grindstone. Unbridled’s Song ran three more times at 3 but never recaptured his best form, although he did finish second in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II. He easily won his 4-year-old debut, the seven-furlong Olympic Handicap, run at Gulfstream Park in January. Due to injury, that proved to be his farewell performance.
Unbridled’s Song’s sire, Unbridled—out of a mare by French Derby victor Le Fabuleux—had no trouble with distance, winning a Kentucky Derby and a Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). In addition to his Derby captor Grindstone (himself sire of a Kentucky Derby winner), he sired Preakness Stakes (gr. I) scorer Red Bullet, and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) hero Empire Maker (also runner-up in the Kentucky Derby). Unbridled’s Song is somewhat less of an influence for stamina, although his impact on the classic has been inhibited by the fact that several of his most promising sons were sidelined by injury at a crucial stage of their 3-year-old careers. His daughter Eight Belles did make the Derby, but tragically suffered a fatal injury while pulling up after finishing an heroic second. Overall, Unbridled’s Song is a factor for performance at distances between seven and nine furlongs, although Political Force, Octave, and Rare Gift, have taken graded events at the Derby distance, the first two in grade I company.
When we explored the pedigree of Take Charge Indy before last year’s classics, we noted that Take Charge Lady (the dam of Take Charge Indy and Will Take Charge) brought some speed and precocity, something that was generally a positive for mares visiting A.P. Indy, but something Unbridled’s Song is able to supply in abundance.
A daughter of champion 2-year-old colt Dehere, Take Charge Lady won 11 of 22 starts. She broke her maiden over 4 1/2 furlongs in April at 2, and won the Walmac International Alcibiades Stakes (gr. II) at that age. She trained on to add seven more graded wins at 3 and 4, including the Ashland Stakes and back-to-back renewals of the Overbrook Spinster Stakes (all gr. I), and also took runner-up spot in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) to champion Farda Amiga. Her only attempt at 10 furlongs saw her take second in the Delaware Oaks (gr. I). Take Charge Indy’s second dam, Felicita, is by Rubiano, a son of Fappiano who wasn’t particularly precocious, but was very fast, earning honors as champion sprinter. Felicita never ran, but turned out to be a good broodmare as she is also dam of Commendation, winner of the Bourbon County Stakes at Keeneland and runner-up in the Jersey Derby (gr. III), and of Eventail, who captured a pair of New York-bred stakes and was graded stakes-placed, and subsequently produced graded winner Straight Story.
On balance, this looks a pedigree best suited to distances around 8 1/2 to nine furlongs, but in the modern era, that often proves sufficient for a 3-year-old in May, should he also possess the requisite class. We’ll close in noting that the Unbridled’s Song/Dehere cross that produced Will Take Charge has an excellent strike rate (A++ TrueNicks ranking), having also produced 2013 grade I winner Graydar and graded scorer Strike It Rich from only seven starters. Together runners from the sire line do have a longer average winning distance than either Unbridled’s Song or mares by Dehere when bred to all other mates. Will Take Charge is also the first Unbridled’s Song stakes winner with inbreeding to Fappiano (who appears here 3x4), although such a duplication has appeared in at least nine other stakes winners, including Anak Nakal, who dead-heated for third in the 2008 Belmont, and Bernardini ’s undefeated son Algorithms , a classic prospect early in 2012 before suffering a career-ending injury.