The connections of Take Charge Indy had two options for their grade I winner in the coming weeks—run him in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 3 against some big guns, or shoulder high weight of 123 pounds in the $200,000 Monmouth Cup (gr. II) in what should prove to be an easier spot.
After some deliberation, owners WinStar Farm and Chuck and Maribeth Sandford have entered the 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy and multiple grade I winner Take Charge Lady in the 1 1/16-mile Monmouth Cup on Haskell Day July 28 at Monmouth Park, where he looms large against the likes of Hymn Book, Pants on Fire, and Norman Asbjornson despite coming off a disappointing sixth in the June 15 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I).
“In a choice between the two, the Monmouth Cup is obviously not as splashy as the Whitney, but for us, it had a lot of appeal,” trainer Pat Byrne remarked. “Looking at some of the horses lined up for the Whitney, after him not showing up in the Stephen Foster, we thought maybe we should take a slightly different route.”
“We couldn’t find any physical excuse for the loss, and he’s been training great since then,” Byrne said. “Hopefully this is a chance for us to get back on track for the rest of the year.”
Take Charge Indy won the Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) in sparkling fashion May 3 at Churchill, proving his brilliance when right yet again. The colt won the 2012 Florida Derby (gr. I) but was sidelined for much of his 3-year-old year due to an ankle chip. He came back at the end of 2012 to run third in the Fayette Stakes (gr. III) and was second in the Clark Handicap (gr. I).
In 2013 Take Charge Indy was third in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) and second in the Skip Away Stakes (gr. III), both at Gulfstream Park, before winning the Alysheba. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will be in the irons from post 2 in this spot since regular rider Rosie Napravnik had committed to ride grade II winner Mark Valeski , but the 4-year-old son of Proud Citizen was not entered because he “wrenched an ankle” in his last work July 16 in Kentucky, according to trainer Larry Jones.
“He’s going to the farm and they’ll give him a little further checkup, it’s nothing severe but we couldn’t get this race in him,” Jones said. “It’s a minor issue and I expect him back soon.”
Most accomplished among the other older horses is Stuart S. Janney II’s 7-year-old gelding Hymn Book, a grade I-winning son of Arch who took the Donn Handicap (gr. I) in 2012. The Shug McGaughey trainee has been second in both of his 2013 starts, the June 14 Criminal Type Stakes at Belmont Park and the Alysheba. In the latter, he ran third but was placed second due to the disqualification of Cyber Secret. Hymn Book has run in 15 stakes, 11 of them graded, and has won or hit the board in nine. Cornelio Velasquez rides from post 5.
George and Lori Hall’s Pants on Fire is a fan of Monmouth, having won the Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) at the New Jersey oval in 2011 and the Skip Away Stakes there in 2012. Trainer Kelly Breen sent the 5-year-old son of Jump Start to a third-place finish in the June 1 Mountainview Handicap at Parx Racing last time out, where Norman Asbjornson was second. Pants on Fire was third in his other two graded stakes attempts this year—the March 30 Skip Away Stakes (gr. III) and the Jan. 13 Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr. III), both at Gulfstream Park, and won a $65,000 optional claimer by 5 1/4 lengths going a mile in the slop at the South Florida oval between them.
Pennsylvania-bred Norman Asbjornson missed the 1 1/8-mile Mountainview by 2 1/4 lengths to Easter Gift after taking the lead only to give way late. Trainer Carlos Mancilla got a win out of the 5-year-old Real Quiet ridgling back in the March 16 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes at Laurel Park, but in his only graded stakes attempt of 2013 he was fifth in the April 27 Westchester (gr. III) at Belmont, after which he went to the sidelines until the Mountainview.
Kasey K Racing Stable and Brier Creek Farm’s 5-year-old Malibu Moon gelding Big Sur was runner-up in the July 6 Salvator Mile Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth for trainer Ramon Moya. Copper Penney Stable’s 5-year-old son of Yes It's True, Small Town Talk, was sixth in the same event for trainer Charles Simon. Two Rivers Racing Stable’s Ponzi Scheme, a 6-year-old Sunday Break gelding, won the July 11 Stymie Stakes at Delaware Park going the Monmouth Cup distance for trainer Jorge Navarro.
$200,000 Monmouth Cup (gr. II, Race 9, approximate post time 3:59 p.m. EDT), 3YOs&Up, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Small Town Talk, P. Cotto, Jr., 116, C Simon
2. Take Charge Indy, G.L. Stevens, 123, P Byrne
3. Big Sur, R.F. Moya, 118, R Moya
4. Norman Asbjornson, J. Rose, 118, C Mancilla
5. Hymn Book, C. Velasquez, 116, C R McGaughey
6. Ponzi Scheme, R. Napravnik, 116, J Navarro
7. Pants on Fire, P. Lopez, 116, K Breen