Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) runner-up Will Take Charge breezed four furlongs Nov. 16 at Churchill Downs in preparation for the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare Nov. 29.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained chestnut son of Unbridled's Song, bidding for a second grade I victory of his 3-year-old season, covered the distance in :49 over a fast track. It was his first major training move since he lost by a nose to Mucho Macho Man in the Nov. 2 Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
The work by Will Take Charge came just after the mid-training hours break for track maintenance and ranked 35th of 84 on a busy morning. Exercise rider Rudy Quevelos was in the saddle as Will Take Charge covered the distance in fractional times of :12 and :23 1/5, and galloped out five furlongs in 1:04 4/5.
Lukas confirmed that Will Take Charge, winner of the Travers (gr. I) and Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) before his narrow loss in the Classic, would run against older foes once more this season in the 1 1/8-mile Clark.
Owned by Willis Horton, the Kentucky-bred chestnut colt has compiled a 5-3-0 mark from 14 starts while earning $2,727,371.
The Clark is expected to include Game On Dude, who was the front-runner for Horse of the Year honors before he ran ninth in the Classic. Other older foes include Bourbon Courage, who was a close third to Shackleford and Take Charge Indy in the 2012 Clark, and stakes veterans Prayer for Relief and Finnegans Wake.
Bourbon Lane Stable's Bourbon Courage worked five furlongs in 1:00 1/5, the second fastest move of 48 at the distance. The son of Lion Heart worked in fractional times of :24 4/5 and :36 2/5, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 1/5. Bourbon Courage won the Super Derby (gr. II) at 3 and was runner-up in both the Indiana Derby (gr. II) and West Virginia Derby (gr. II).
Donegal Racing's Finnegans Wake worked five furlongs for trainer Dale Romans in 1:01.50. The 4-year-old son of Powerscourt (GB) finished fourth in his most recent start over Keeneland's Polytrack in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (gr. II).
Lukas said the timing was right to run Will Take Charge in the Clark.
"I almost wish there was more to the season, because he is good right now," he said. "It's a prestigious race in many ways. It's a grade I and if we could get another grade I against older competition around two turns, I think it would be significant."
Lukas believes Will Take Charge is the probable Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old following his near-miss in a memorable Classic. The colt experienced traffic problems on the far turn, and Lukas contends that those issues probably cost him the victory.
But the Hall of Fame trainer believes a win in the Clark by his maturing colt would seal the division title.
"He's light," Lukas said. "He's rangy, but he's starting to get a little bit more muscle tone to him and filling out. He stays into the feed tub and does everything you'd like, but a lot of these gangly athletes don't get good until they get older, and that's the way he is."
"He's better mentally, too. He now has got the idea that if he clocks them and you set him down at the top of the stretch, he finishes. To run down those horses—Game On Dude and Mucho Macho Man and those type horses—in the stretch like he did after getting bumped and pushed out was significant. I mean, he was running."