Forget all the controversies surrounding the Travers Stakes (gr. I). The two primary antagonists, Will Take Charge and Moreno, who finished one-two, respectively, in the Midsummer Derby, will lock horns once again in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) at Parx Racing Sept. 21.
Although a field of eight was entered in the 1 1/8-mile race, all eyes will be on Will Take Charge and Moreno, who finished noses apart in the Travers, with the former just getting up with a dramatic late surge to nip the vastly improved Moreno, who had set all the pace, turning back the challenges first of Verrazano and then Orb .
Despite the contention by Moreno's trainer Eric Guillot that Will Take Charge's jockey Luis Saez used an electrical device on his horse, the Pennsylvania Derby should be a tremendous showdown between the two colts, with virtually no one in the field seemingly capable of running with Moreno early and Will Take Charge at the top of his game following an up-and-down winter and spring campaign.
Both colts have gotten here by taking totally different paths. Moreno, who drew post 3 with Jose Ortiz in the saddle, didn't break his maiden until his 10th career start for owner Southern Equine Stable after being helped dramatically by the addition of blinkers. Since blinkers were added, the son of Ghostzapper —Danceinthesunlight, by A.P. Indy, broke his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths before winning the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) by seven lengths. Although he finished a solid third in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) behind Palace Malice and Will Take Charge, he was ignored at 31-1 in the Travers.
Willis Horton's Will Take Charge, on the other hand, is one of only three horses this year to have competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown, and many felt he would have been first or second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) had he not gotten stopped cold while rallying stride for stride with eventual winner Orb.
Following a freshening, the son of Unbridled's Song—Take Charge Lady, by Dehere, returned with a fast-closing second in the Jim Dandy before winning the Travers. By winning a grade I, Will Take Charge will carry co-topweight of 124 pounds, along with Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) winner Java's War, and will give two pounds to Moreno and five to seven pounds to the remainder of the field.
Will Take Charge will break from the far outside in post 8 and again will be ridden by Saez for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Darley Stable will return with their two-pronged attack, looking to avenge the Travers defeats of Romansh (fifth), trained by Tom Albertrani, and the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Transparent (ninth), who gets Lasix for the first time.
This will be the third time the two Darley colts will face each other, having finished one-two in the 1 1/8-mile Curlin Stakes at Saratoga, with Transparent finishing first only to be disqualified and placed fifth, with runner-up Romansh moved up to first.
Irad Ortiz Jr. will be back aboard Transparent, who breaks from post 2, but Romansh (post 7) will get a new rider in Rajiv Maragh.
Shipping in from New York will be the Todd Pletcher-trained Battier, fourth in the Smarty Jones at Parx, and Java's War, who recently was turned over to Barclay Tagg by owner Charles Fipke after being trained earlier by Kenny McPeek.
From California comes Fury Kapcori from the always dangerous Jerry Hollendorfer barn. The son of Tiznow captured a stakes at Fresno in his only dirt start and is coming off a gutsy second, beaten a head, in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar. Mike Smith gets the mount.
Finally, there is Speak Logistics, who ships in from Monmouth Park for trainer Eddie Plesa. Earlier this year, the son of High Cotton finished third in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and second in the Calder Derby. He breaks from the rail under Paco Lopez.
Although Moreno set leisurely fractions in the Travers, much to the surprise of most people, he possesses a good deal of speed and can carry it a distance, which will make him all the more dangerous. Look for Will Take Charge to be closer to the pace than usual, especially breaking from the outside post. Saez will be hoping Romansh, who was close up in the Travers, takes up the chase from the 7 post.
$1,000,000 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II, Race 11, approximate post time 5:45 EDT), 3YOs, 1 1/8 miles
1. Speak Logistics (FL), P Lopez, 117, E Plesa, Jr.
2. Transparent (FL),I Ortiz, Jr., 117, K P McLaughlin
3. Moreno (KY), J L Ortiz, 122, E J Guillot
4. Battier (FL), A Castillo, 117, T A Pletcher
5. Java's War (KY), J R Leparoux, 124, B Tagg
6. Fury Kapcori (KY), M E Smith, 117, J Hollendorfer
7. Romansh (KY), R Maragh, 119, T Albertrani
8. Will Take Charge (KY), L Saez, 124, D W Lukas