Lukas Mulls Gold Cup for Will Take Charge
by Blood-Horse Staff
Date Posted: 8/25/2013 4:42:02 PM
Last Updated: 8/28/2013 1:23:00 PM
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is keeping the logical options open for Travers (gr. I) winner Will Take Charge, who could next go in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) or the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II).
The $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup against older horses is Sept. 28 at Belmont Park. The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) for 3-year-olds only at Philadelphia's Parx Racing is Sept. 21.
"One of them's a Grade 1 and very prestigious. If you were to win the Jockey Club, you'd go damn sure to the head of the division," Lukas said the morning of Aug. 25. "If you stay in your division, the million dollars is not necessarily bad, either. We'll weigh all the things. You get an extra week if you go to the Jockey Club, so that's also something."
The Hall of Fame conditioner said Will Take Charge's nose victory over Moreno in the Aug. 24 Travers at Saratoga Race Course did little to clarify the 3-year-old picture. Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Orb finished a solid third, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice closed to be fourth after missing the break, and 8-5 favorite Verrazano faded to seventh after stalking the pace.
"I think it muddles it a little bit," Lukas said, adding, "It's going to have to be sorted out in a race or two more. Maybe it will get all the way down to the Breeders' Cup. The fight's not over."
Owned by Willis Horton, the son of Unbridled's Song out of Take Charge Lady gave the 77-year-old Lukas his third Travers victory and first since 1995, charging down the stretch of the 1 1/4-mile test to nail stubborn pacesetter Moreno in the final jump.
"He's doing wonderful; really good," Lukas said. "I'm very pleased with that. He had great energy this morning, out grazing and feeling good, very good."
Winner of the Smarty Jones and Rebel (gr. II) during the winter, Will Take Charge ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown without success. He finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), seventh to injured stablemate Oxbow in the Preakness (gr. I), and 10th in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
The chestnut colt came back to run a strong second, beaten just a length by Palace Malice, in the Spa's Jim Dandy (gr. II) July 27.
"His trips were compromised (during the Triple Crown)," Lukas said. "His style of running puts him in a position where he has to have some things go his way. As he's gotten older and more mature now, mentally and physically, he's able to overcome that stuff. Early on in his career, that was the thing that probably slowed him up."
Ridden for the first time by 21-year-old Luis Saez, Will Take Charge was able to relax off a leisurely pace set by 31-1 long shot Moreno before closing relentlessly down the center of the track.
"He rode a very smart race," said Lukas said of Saez. "If he stays tucked in behind that horse at the sixteenth pole, he loses. Boy, this horse really accelerated when he saw daylight and took off. He lengthened his stride five, six feet in the last hundred yards.
"We thought he would mature into a better horse, but we took some chances. We took an untried rider who had never won a Grade 1 in his life and put him up there. We took the blinkers off. I've always felt in racing and training horses that if it's not working, change up and try something different."
Will Take Charge has won 3 of 8 starts with earnings of $1,171,200.
Southern Equine Stable homebred Moreno was bright and doing well after his gallant second. Trainer Eric Guillot revealed Sunday morning that the gelded son of Ghostzapper raced with a large abscess near his throat.
"That's an abscess that started Monday," said Guillot, while a stable hand jogged Moreno in a straight line outside the barn for the trainer's inspection. "I think the worst day was yesterday. We started compressing it. We're good to go now, but I thought I was going to have to scratch on Monday. We don't know what caused it; I think an ingrown hair, maybe, or he jerked back on the chain. It got infected and went the wrong way. You don't want to pack it and work on it too hard and too fast. Yesterday, we iced it. I gave him a lot of anti-inflammatories."
Travers Day was a good one for the colorful Guillot, who told anyone who would listen that the horse named after owner Michael Moreno was one of the best in the 3-year-old division.
"Everyone thought I was talking trash," Guillot said. "He just beat the Derby winner, the Haskell winner, and the Belmont winner, right? "
Guillot said he plans to leave Moreno at Saratoga to train up to the Pennsylvania Derby. If all goes well, he'd like to run him in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
"We'd run him right out of his stall," Guillot said, referring to his home base. "It's my backyard. I've got to take that on."
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey on Sunday expressed satisfaction with Orb's third-place finish in the Travers, and said the colt likely will make his next start in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Orb threatened along the inside in upper stretch but could not match strides with Will Take Charge and Moreno. Orb was ridden by Jose Lezcano, who replaced injured jockey Joel Rosario.
"I thought he ran a great race," said McGaughey, who trains the Kentucky Derby winner for Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable. "He came to the paddock the way I wanted him to, and I thought he had running on his mind. I thought Jose rode him great. He was down on the inside the other two horses, and he couldn't get by Moreno, really, after that slow pace. I'm disappointed we didn't win, but I'm not disappointed in his effort one bit."
If Orb competes in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he will be making his first start against older horses. The Travers was his first start since his third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in June.
"Now we've got a good, solid race under his belt, we've got all last winter and spring's stuff behind us," said McGaughey. "I think we can really move forward now. I'm going to look at the Gold Cup. That's not to say the Pennsylvania Derby or the Indiana Derby (gr. II, Oct. 5 at Indiana Downs) or something is completely out of the picture, but I think we want to go to the Gold Cup."
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Sunday morning that Travers favorite Verrazano (seventh) and second choice Palace Malice (fourth) returned in good order.
"We're disappointed," Pletcher said. "Any time after a race, you don't only look at that race but their entire body of work. As far as their next starts, we have no firm plans. We'll wait a few days and talk it over with Mr. [Cot] Campbell and the other connections before we make any decisions."
The Pletcher barn was far from empty-handed Saturday, as Capo Bastone took advantage of torrid early fractions and came from 10th to upset the $500,000 Foxwoods King's Bishop (gr. I) at 28-1.
"We were hoping we would get a favorable pace set-up," Pletcher said. "We felt like the horse was training very well into it. Based on the strength of his training, we thought we'd take a shot, and it worked out."
Among those on the main track worktab for Pletcher on Sunday were 2012 champion 2-year-old male Shanghai Bobby , who worked five furlongs 1:00.91 in company with Graydar , and Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) winner Cross Traffic, who went a half-mile in 48.19.
"Shanghai continues to go great," Pletcher said. "We're still a month or so away, but I like what we're seeing so far. He's coming back and getting fit a week or so ahead of what we anticipated. We're really pleased with him and happy to have him back.
"Cross Traffic also went well," he added. "We'll make a decision tomorrow or the next day on whether he'll run in the Woodward (gr. I, on Aug. 31)."
Copyright © 2014 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.