All eyes will be on Will Take Charge when the recently crowned
champion faces 10 foes in his 2014 debut in the $500,000 Donn Handicap
(G1) at Gulfstream Park on Sunday afternoon. According to trainer D.
Wayne Lukas, the towering chestnut has thrived since his victory over
Game On Dude in the Clark Handicap (G1) 10 weeks ago, and he made a
favorable impression in his first gallop over the Gulfstream main track
"He had a good month and I think he's ready to go," Lukas said. "I
was a little bit concerned about the long ship (from Oaklawn Park), but
it seems like he's handled it well. He's training well, he's more mature
and he's stronger than he was."
Will Take Charge will carry 123 pounds in the nine-furlong Donn, and
will give away from four to nine pounds to the rest of his rivals in the
marquee event. The 59th renewal of the Donn will be the 12th and final
race on Sunday's card at Gulfstream. It will kick off The Jockey Club
Tour on Fox racing series, which will be broadcast on Fox Sports
"I think probably at this time of the year they're not going to load
up too much on any of the horses," Lukas offered. "I'm not a guy that
gets too carried away about the weight. I think he might be a bit
sharper because he's had this little break. I think he could lay a
little closer. I'm familiar with some of the horses in here, but we'll
run our race regardless. He handles everything well."
Jockey Luis Saez, who has partnered Will Take Charge since his
breakout performance in the $1-million Travers Stakes (G1) on August 24,
will be back in the irons when they break from post two on
Owner Willis Horton acquired Will Take Charge for $425,000 as a
yearling at Keeneland, and sold a 50-percent interest in the son of
Unbridled's Song to Three Chimneys Farm after his Clark success. In
addition to the Travers and the Clark, Will Take Charge captured the
$1-million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) in
2013, and also was a whisker shy of Mucho Macho Man in the $5-million
Breeders' Cup Classic (G1). He has won six of 15 career starts and
bankrolled over $3 million to date.
Next to Will Take Charge in stall three will be Revolutionary, who
will carry 119 pounds in the nine-furlong event. Trained by Todd
Pletcher for owner WinStar Farm, the dark bay colt captured the
$1-million Louisiana Derby (G2) and Withers Stakes (G3) on his way to
finishing third in the $2-million Kentucky Derby (G1). He was freshened
up following a fifth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1) in June,
and emerged victorious in his return to action on January 11 at
Gulfstream Park. Revolutionary got off to his typical leisurely start in
that one-mile allowance test, but finished up well to defeat Falling
Sky by a half-length.
"I think in this particular at a mile-and-an-eighth, it shouldn't be a
big issue," Pletcher said about Revolutionary's tendency to get away
slowly. "If he doesn't break well, the track seems to be playing pretty
fairly to all kinds of running styles."
The 4-year-old son of War Pass has recorded a pair of four-furlong
drills at Palm Meadows since his comeback effort, earning a bullet for
his :47.90 move on January 27 and going in 49 seconds on February
"He worked well and he's doing good," Pletcher commented. "He got a
race under his belt over the track, so we're optimistic about him
performing well. It's a tough race, for sure."
Revolutionary will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
River Seven, among the best of his generation last year in Canada,
showed he could transfer that form south of the border as well. The
Ontario-bred gelding scored in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (G3) at
Churchill Downs on November 16, then set a track record here at
Gulfstream on December 22 when he posted a four-length triumph in the
Harlan's Holiday Stakes. Nick Gonzalez, who conditions the son of
Johannesburg for Tucci Stables, opted to freshen up his charge in
preparation for the Donn.
"He's been doing great," Gonzalez said. "You always wonder when
you've got all that time between races, because he'd been going pretty
steady all year and he got to the Harlan's Holiday and ran so
Whether on dirt, turf or synthetic surfaces, River Seven tends to
place himself in a handy position, and Gonzalez expects to see that
pattern continue in the Donn on Sunday.
"He's pretty quick in his own right and this track does favor
that--you're not going to be making big monster closing moves on this
track," Gonzalez explained. "This track has always been good for horses
on the pace or stalkers that aren't too far out of it, so I don't think
we'll be too far out of it at any time."
River Seven will be ridden once again by Joe Rocco Jr. when he breaks from post five.
Lea had spent much of his career on turf for trainer Al Stall Jr.,
but was transferred to the barn of Bill Mott following a fifth in the
Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on October 26. The Claiborne Farm and
Adele Dilschneider homebred showed a new dimension in his first start
for Mott when he annexed the one-mile Hal's Hope Stakes (G3) at
Gulfstream on January 11. The son of First Samurai was forwardly placed
throughout in that one-mile affair, and Mott is optimistic that
5-year-old can continue that form in the Donn.
"It didn't surprise me (that he'd handle the dirt), but I suppose
there's always a little doubt as to whether they'll do it in top
company," Mott remarked. "This weekend is a new test because it's nine
furlongs; the last time was a flat mile and he seemed to do that very
well. I'm just hoping he handles that extra furlong as well. He's been
training well. He's had a couple of good works."
Drawn in post eight, Lea will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
Also in the Donn field are Uncaptured (Miguel Mena), Neck 'n Neck
(Julien Leparoux), Romansh (John Velazquez), Viramundo (Paco Lopez),
Bourbon Courage (Jose Lezcano), Macho Bull (Magomet Kappushev) and
Joshua's Comprise (Francisco Maysonett).