Willis Horton's Will Take Charge seeks redemption in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap presented by Abu Dhabi (gr. I) June 14, looking to rebound from a dismal sixth in the May 2 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
The Alysheba was a get-acquainted race for the D. Wayne Lukas trainee and jockey Gary Stevens, and perhaps a second try on the 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song will result in better results when Will Take Charge heads to post again as the 123-pound highweight from the 4 hole.
In the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba, the two-time grade I winner and 3-year-old champion male of 2013 raced far back and inside, contrary to his usual running style—his greatest efforts have come from a position just off the pace and a long closing outside drive.
Stretching back out to his better distance of 1 1/8 miles, Will Take Charge seeks his first grade I victory of the season. He took the April 12 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and was second in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) to Game On Dude and runner-up to Lea in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) behind a track record 1:46.86 earlier in the year.
Will Take Charge was runner-up by a nose to Mucho Macho Man in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), and could earn an automatic berth in the 2014 edition of that race with a score in the Stephen Foster, a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event.
In the Alysheba, 6-1 shot Moonshine Mullin set the pace, turned back the challenge of grade I winner Golden Ticket, and prevailed by half a length. The 6-year-old son of Albert the Great earned his first graded stakes score for owner Randy Patterson and trainer Randy Morse with that free-running victory, but will have to take his game to the next level in this spot. Calvin Borel gets the return mount from post 3 aboard the former claimer, who carries 118 with a four-race win streak on the line.
Golden Ticket made a good three-wide bid after pressing the pace in the Alysheba but was outfinished as the speed horse kicked on. Earlier this year, the horse who dead-heated for victory in the 2012 Travers Stakes (gr. I) finished second by a head to 2013 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and recent Met Mile (gr. I) winner Palace Malice in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. I) going a mile. He was also second in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), but is winless since taking home the Prairie Meadows Handicap last July for trainer Ken McPeek and Magic City Thoroughbred Partners. Julien Leparoux will ride 5-year-old Golden Ticket, a son of Speightstown , from the 7 hole as part of a 117-pound impost.
One of great interest in this spot is WinStar Farm's Revolutionary, who on May 16 put in a brilliant late run five wide to capture the Pimlico Special (gr. III) off a runner-up effort three-quarters of a length behind Will Take Charge in a roughly run edition of the Oaklawn Handicap. The Pimlico Special was the first victory for the War Pass colt since his determined Louisiana Derby (gr. II) score back in March 2013. He has proven a fighter in each of his victories, including the 2013 Withers Stakes (gr. III), and counts a third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) along with a fifth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) last year among his efforts.
Mike Smith will ride Revolutionary from the inside. The Todd Pletcher trainee was rested after the Belmont and returned to the races this January, when he won a Gulfstream Park allowance event. The Pimlico Special was the second victory of his 4-year-old season.
Zayat Stables' hard-knocking Prayer for Relief exits a runner-up finish to Revolutionary in the Pimlico Special. The 6-year-old Jump Start runner finished gamely a neck back, in search of his first win of the year for trainer Dale Romans, who took over his conditioning from Steve Asmussen before sending him to a fourth in the Oaklawn Handicap. Winner of the 2011 Super Derby (gr. II), Prayer for Relief has not won since taking the Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots last December.
Another Super Derby winner, Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider's homebred Departing, makes a step back into grade I company for the first time since a sixth in last year's Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Trainer Al Stall Jr. brought the War Front gelding back from a layoff to win an April 20 one-mile dirt allowance at Churchill in solid fashion; that victory his first start since a fourth in the Oklahoma Derby (gr. III) last September.
Departing, winner of the 2013 Super Derby and Illinois Derby (gr. II), also counts the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) among his seven wins from 10 starts.
Also in the field are Long River, Godolphin Racing's minor stakes-winning son of A.P. Indy out of multiple grade I winner Round Pond who starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, and John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock Services' homebred Jaguar Paw, a 7-year-old minor stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed son of Giant's Causeway trained by Steve Lyster.
$500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (gr. I, Race 8, approximate post time 9:39 p.m. EDT) 3YOs & Up, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Revolutionary, M. Smith, 118, T A Pletcher
2. Jaguar Paw, S. Bridgmohan, 114, S Lyster
3. Moonshine Mullin, C. Borel, 118, R Morse
4. Will Take Charge, G. Stevens, 123, D W Lukas
5. Mylute, J. Graham, 115, T Amoss
6. Departing, R. Albarado, 118, A Stall, Jr.
7. Golden Ticket, J. Leparoux, 117, K McPeek
8. Long River, I. Ortiz Jr., 115, K P McLaughlin
9. Prayer For Relief, J. Velazquez, 117, D Romans