Champion Will Take Charge arrived by van early the morning of Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park, where he is slated to make his 2014 debut in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 9.
The 4-year-old son of Unbridled Song and multiple grade I winner Take Charge Lady, named last year's champion 3-year-old at the Eclipse Awards ceremony last month, appeared alert and bright after his journey from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., the winter base of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Will Take Charge is owned by Willis Horton and Three Chimneys Farm LLC.
"He handled the trip great. It's unbelievable how good he is. It took us 20 hours and 20 minutes to get here, and you'd never know it to look at him," said John Sica, the Lukas assistant who drove the van that delivered the likely favorite for Sunday's 1 1/8-mile handicap. "He has a great mind."
Lukas, a five-time Eclipse Award winner who has saddled four Kentucky Derby (gr. I) champions and 14 winners of Triple Crown events overall, is expected to be at Gulfstream on Friday, Sica said. Horton is also expected to attend.
As the 123-pound highweight in the Donn, Will Take Charge will concede at least four pounds to his rivals, expected to include Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Revolutionary
(119), Hal's Hope (gr. III) victor Lea
(117), Harlan's Holiday winner River Seven
(116), Indiana Derby (gr. II) winner Neck 'n Neck
(116) and Discovery Handicap (gr. III) victor Romansh
The 59th running of the Donn Handicap will be nationally televised by Fox Sports 1 (5-6:30 p.m. EST), kicking off "The Jockey Club Tour on Fox" series.
Will Take Charge is stabled in Barn 2 with former Lukas assistant Todd Pletcher's Gulfstream division, two barns away from Mucho Macho Man
, who nosed him out of a victory in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park
on Nov. 2. The Lukas-trained colt had previously captured the Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course
and the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) at Parx Racing
. He concluded his championship season with a triumph over older rivals in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs
on Nov. 29.
"He is such a good horse," Sica said. "His mother was a really good horse; his brother won the Florida Derby."
The pedigree of the Kentucky-bred colt would certainly suggest he will be well-suited to the Gulfstream surface. His dam produced Take Charge Indy
, who captured the 2012 Florida Derby (gr. I) for trainer Patrick Byrne. His sire was a Florida Derby winner for trainer James Ryerson, defeating the Lukas-trained Editor's Note by more than five lengths in 1996.
Will Take Charge is scheduled to walk Wednesday, Feb. 5, before getting acquainted with the Gulfstream racetrack Thursday morning, Feb. 6.