IN CHARGE OF THE DUDE
What a finish in the Grade 1 Clark, 101 Beyer for 3yo Will Take Charge
from Churchill Downs
Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge, beaten a nose by Mucho Macho Man in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) on Nov. 2, launched a furious late rally under jockey Luis Saez to catch favored Game On Dude in the final jump to win the 139th running of the $550,700, Grade I Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare by a head in a “Black Friday” championship battle at Churchill Downs.
Trained by the ageless Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Will Take Charge most likely secured the honor of Thoroughbred racing’s champion 3-year-old with his victory over Game On Dude and seven other rivals. But Bob Baffert, the Hall of Fame trainer who sent Game On Dude from Southern California to Kentucky in an effort to put his star back in the conversation for racing’s coveted Eclipse Award for “Horse of the Year”, believes the late-developing Will Take Charge deserves more.
“He’s got to be considered seriously for Horse of the Year, because that was pretty impressive,” Baffert said. “The Dude, he ran his race. He brought his ‘A’ game today, and Will Take Charge still got us. So that’s pretty impressive.”
The 78-year-old Lukas hoped that, at the very least, his rising star had wrapped up 3-year-old championship honors.
“If I’m reading the headlines right, Game On Dude was in contention for Horse of the Year,” Lukas said. “If that’s the case, we just beat a damn nice horse. And we did beat a nice horse today. We beat a damn good horse.”
The Clark Handicap victory by Will Take Charge in the showdown between two of American racing’s brightest stars improved his career record to 15-6-3-0 and boosted his career earnings to $3,055,148. Most of that success has come this year for the colt who started his campaign in January, was well-beaten in the Kentucky Derby and all three races of the Triple Crown, but came to life in the second half of 2013 with victories in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga and the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing prior to his runs in the Breeders’ Cup and the Clark Handicap. His 2013 record stands at 11-5-2-0 with earnings of $2,960,977 following Saturday’s dramatic win.
“I was standing with my grandson Brady and he started hollering ‘He’s coming! He’s coming!’ but like I said to Willis I think we were going to need every yard,” Lukas said. “He’s a classy horse and he’s gotten the idea of getting up. He seems to know where the wire is. The last four strides you could see he really … I don’t know what (the strides) measured but they were long.”
Will Take Charge covered the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Clark Handicap over a fast track in 1:49.39. He paid $6.80, $3 and $2.60 as the 5-2 second betting choice in the Clark. Game On Dude, who suffered only his second defeat in a seven-race 2013 campaign that included three Grade I stakes victories, paid $3.40 and $2.60 for his runner-up effort under jockey Mike Smith. Easter Gift, who rallied to finish two lengths back of Game On Dude in third under jockey Joel Rosario, returned $5.20 to show.
Game On Dude does his best running on or near the lead and seemed to have a tactical advantage on Will Take Charge heading into the Clark Handicap, and Smith got the former out of the starting gate quickly. But Game On Dude was confronted early by 14-1 longshot Our Double Play, who rushed past Game On Dude and led the field through early fractions of :23.80 for the quarter, :47.29 for the half-mile and six furlongs in 1:11.14. The favorite was a clear second down the backstretch, while Saez and Will Take Charge tracked the leaders in fourth. Smith moved on Our Double Play and grabbed the lead mid-way around the far turn while Will Take Charge waited in fourth. Smith gunned Game On Dude to a clear lead in upper stretch while Saez and Will Take Charge launched a five-wide bid, but appeared to struggle in their effort to gain ground on the leader. But Will Take Charge quickened with a sixteenth of a mile to go, caught Game On Dude in the final strides and put his head in front for the victory in the race’s final jump.
Easter Gift held third by 1 ¾ lengths over the late-running Bourbon Courage, who trailed by nearly 15 lengths midway through the race but rallied to be beaten fewer than three lengths in fourth. He was followed by Jaguar Paw, Finnegans Wake, Our Double Play, Golden Ticket and Prayer for Relief.
The Clark Handicap victory was the second for Lukas, who also won the race in 2000 when he saddled the 3-year-old filly Surfside to defeat older males. In doing so, she wrapped-up honors as that year’s champion 3-year-old filly. Will Take Charge’s win was the first Clark Handicap victory for the 21-year-old Saez and Horton, the colt’s 81-year-old owner.
While championship talk dominated conversation after the heart-pounding victory by Will Take Charge, the question of a possible racing future for Lukas’ rising star was unanswered. Negotiations are underway on a potential stallion deal for the Clark winner, and Horton hopes that any deal that is struck would allow his colt to continue to compete next year.
“I made a decision this week that next week was going to be the end of it – I can’t sleep at night with this deal going on,” Horton said. “I just want it over with. I either going to sell him or run him next year. I hope I could keep part of him and get to run him next year. That’s my plan.”
Baffert indicated that the 6-year-old Game On Dude would return to competition in 2014. Following his defeat in the Clark Handicap, his career record stands at 29-15-6-1 with earnings of $5,707,893. Of that total, $2,575,735 was earned this year as he compiled a record of 7-5-1-0 following a Clark Handicap performance that offered redemption for a ninth-place finish as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but ended a head short of victory in his dramatic final race of the year.
AT WOODBINE, KENNEDY ROAD REMEMBERED
The Grade 2 Kennedy Road today at Woodbine may just be another romp in the Polytrack for Phil’s Dream, the large Philanthropist gelding who has been virtually unbeatable this year after missing a year with an injury.
Paul Buttigieg’s homebred will be odds-on for the 6 furlong dash this afternoon. He is already Sprinter of the year but another win likely make shim Horse of the Year.
His competition is the talented youngster GO BLUE OR GO HOME and intriguing shipper SUMMER BREEZING.
Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame Inductee, 2000
The mahogany-colored Kennedy Road was quite unlike any previous winner of the Queen’s Plate; as he aged, he excelled. He was a tall, lean colt with bulging muscles and he looked invincible when he sprinted away from the field at Woodbine in 1971.
Owned and bred by Arthur and Helen Stollery’s Angus Glen Farm of Unionville, Ont., Kennedy Road had an ornery, temperamental streak that severely tested the patience of the men who trained him – Jim Bentley, California legend Charlie Whittingham and Clarke Whitaker. Stable hands and grooms had to be wary of his roguish antics. The colt often dictated the terms to his riders of how he would perform. One day he would streak into the lead against the best horses in North America, and often win, then there would be afternoons when he sulked and refused to respond to his jockey’s desperate urging.
However, it was not Kennedy’s behavior that distinguished him from any number of Plate winners. Instead of fading into oblivion after his day in the sun, he developed into a great race horse, maturing from a wild-eyed sprinter with an uncontrollable habit of attempting to flee from his opponents, into a swift older horse who occasionally could be “rated” and perform in a more relaxed style.
At ages two, three and four the son of Victoria Park was Canada’s champion colt before being honored with Horse of the Year honors in 1973, the year of his brilliant performances in California against Autobiography, Quack, Cougar II and Big Spruce.
FRIDAY AT WOODBINE –
STRIKE OIL gets 2nd win since he won his maiden in the CORONATION FUTURITY 3 years ago!
The day started off with the fastest race of the card – an 87 Beyer Fogure earned by TAKE THREE, who led all the way to win the 9 furlong, Ontario sired allowance race for Nick DeToro. He won by 7 lengths in 150 4/5 over Niigon’s Glory.
It was the 3rd win in the last 4 races for the son of Niigon – Indy Theatre by Theatrical. He was claimed for $25,000 by DeToro off the maiden win on Sept. 7.
Race 2 was a 2yo claiming race for $32,00 and IRISH MEDIA rode the rail to win from just off the paece for Mr T Stables. The Florida bred by Mass Media had won his maiden for $32K in his last race and had a rapid workout in recent weeks for trainer Mike McDonald.
Race 3, a maiden 2yo filly race for $40K claiming went to the high percentage barn of KELLY CALLAGHAN. She had just claimed BELLEOFTHEBEACH for $25,000 and she won on the pace under Slade Callaghan. It was the first horse that the banr had claimed in the last 5 years. She is a daughter of Master Command.
Race 4, the start of the PIck 4, was a maiden allowance for Ontario sired gals and it was won by Fieldstone Farms’ homebred MY BID, making her 2nd career start. This is a nice prospect for the farm who has raced a lot of youngsters by its stallion SMOOTH BID in the last 2 years. That sire was a stakes winner going long and on grass and his foals have been useful runners. This filly is out of Comply With Me and she was ridden by JUAN CRAWFORD. Carlos Grant trains.
Race 5 was a time to celebrate for SUE LESLIE, chair of OHRIA and president of the HBPA (Ontario). Her RYDER KAY won the $10,00 claiming race after a torubled trip and it was his 2nd win in 10 races this year. He is by Sligo Bay out of Diamond Lane by Bold Ruckus.
On race 6, for $6,250 claimers, the winner, CROWNS DYNASTY, won by more than 7 lenghts in 1:09 3.5, good for an 82 Beyer Figure.
The 4yo colt, who used to be in stakes races, was taking a big class drop and he bettered his previous top Beyer of 81.
Brian Lynch trains for Joe Stritzl.
The track is still fast for race 7 as $10K claimers went in 1:22 4/5. The winner on the pace was OFFICEINTHEVALLEY, a homebred for Paul Buttigieg. A stakes winner, he missed all of 2012 due to an injury and this was his first win since 2011.
Longshot players were sad, favourite players were happy after race 8 when BRAVE SKY was disqualified from a 58 to 1 win and favoured ROYAL BAY (Sligo Bay) was placed first.
The winner is a Scott Fairlie trainee who could not catch the front runner but Brave Sky bore out at the break and wiped out Lord of the Jungle. Brave Sky is a Mark Hadwen trainee who was making his first start in a 2 turn race.
Race 9 was won by WAITING FOR TIME and Peter Berringer, trained for Aurora Meadows. The winner was winning her first race of the year in her 5th start.
And RODNEY HUGHES’ STRIKE OIL fought hard through the stretch to win the $10,000 claiming race for non-winners of 2 lifetime.
You want to know when his other win was? How about the CORONATION FUTURITY 3 years ago as a 2yo for Mark casse?
Emile Walker trains the horse right now and she is the 4th different trainer for the horse since a year ago.
He is a Windfields Farm bred 5Yo gelding by Forest Wildcat.