Hoping to add his name to an honor roll of three-year-old winners of the Grade 2, $150,000 Fayette that includes Blame and Arch, Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy makes his return to the races Saturday in the closing day feature at Keeneland. The Pat Byrne trainee is the only sophomore in a field of 11 that will negotiate nine furlongs on Polytrack.
A wire-to-wire, one-length victor of the Florida Derby in late March, Take Charge Indy next contested the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. The regally-bred son of A.P. Indy and multiple Grade 1 queen Take Charge Lady fared poorly, however, beating just one of his 19 rivals, but exited the classic with an ankle injury that required minor surgery.
"He came back to the barn August 2," Byrne said Wednesday morning from Louisville. "He's had three three quarter-mile works and has a lot of miles under him. (Jockey) Calvin (Borel) worked him three works back and he went 1:13 1/5 and Calvin said he's ready."Take Charge Indy made his first three career starts on Polytrack, taking his Arlington Park debut by 6 1/2 lengths and then finishing second in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. In his only previous start at Keeneland, the dark bay finished fourth to Dullahan in last fall's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity.
"This is a good place to get started back and I can do it without shipping all over the country," Byrne said. ?He has run OK on Polytrack and he did not get beat that far last year by Dullahan.
"He's ready to go. Ideally, I'd like a mile and a sixteenth, but there are not too many places to go. The (Grade 1) Clark Handicap (on November 23 at Churchill Downs) is the main objective and I've got the (Group 1) Dubai World Cup in the back of my mind."
Middie enters the Fayette on a three-race Polytrack win streak for trainer Phil Oliver. The four-year-old gelding registered a 14-1 upset of the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap two back, and has scored against allowance company both at the current meet and during the 2011 Keeneland fall stand. His most recent triumph was a 1 1/2-length decision over Grade 2 veteran Smart Bid going 1 1/8 miles on October 6.
The Todd Pletcher trainee Salto figures to receive plenty of support following a nine-length procession against second-level allowance foes on October 13. The Irish-bred, who was campaigned in France through last summer, finished second in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger two back and looks a solid threat to capture his first stakes here.
Unsurprisingly, the Fayette had attracted a number of candidates whose recent best has come on turf. Among these are Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap hero Guys Reward; Nikki's Sandcastle, who exits photo-finish beats in the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap and Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial Handicap; Grade 2 Pan American winner Newsdad; and Golden Yank, runner-up in the Remington Green and Unbridled in his last two.
Also lining up for the Fayette is Eye of the Leopard, a recent acquisition by the D. Wayne Lukas barn. The six-year-old is a former Canadian champion three-year-old whose last stakes win occurred in the 2009 Queen's Plate.