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Lukas Weighs Options for Will Take Charge

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas was a busy man Sunday morning, his regular routine interrupted several times for interviews following Will Take Charge's upset victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Travers.

 

"They keep coming in droves," quipped Lukas. "That's a good thing."

 

Will Take Charge gave the 77-year-old Lukas his third Travers victory and first since 1995, charging down the stretch to nail stubborn pacesetter Moreno by a nose at the wire.

 

"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 Grade 2 Rebel during the winter, Will Take Charge ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown, finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby, seventh to injured stablemate Oxbow in the Preakness, and 10th in the Belmont Stakes.

 

He came back to run a strong second, beaten just a length by Belmont winner Palace Malice, in the Spa's Grade 2 Jim Dandy on 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, who led through a quarter mile in 24.40 seconds, a half in 48.88 and six furlongs in 1:13.43.

 

Saez swung Will Take Charge outside turning for home, and they closed relentlessly down the center of the track to catch Moreno in the final jump.

 

"I was concerned about the fractions. I thought the fractions were way in favor of the horses that you all liked and not him," Lukas said. "When they threw up that half-mile and then the [1:13.43] for three quarters, I thought it was tailor made for the favorites. When you go 13 and four and you're a world-class horse, you're supposed to finish."

 

Lukas complimented the ride of Saez, who he named to ride Wednesday morning before the post position draw, replacing Junior Alvarado.

 

"He rode a very smart race," said Lukas. "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."

 

Lukas is keeping the logical options open for Will Take Charge, including the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup against older horses at Belmont Park on September 28, and staying with straight 3-year-olds in the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on September 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. "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."

 

Lukas said the Travers did little to clarify the 3-year-old picture. Kentucky Derby winner Orb finished a solid third, 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," he said. "I think if you're one of the voting group, you're going to have trouble until we get a little further down the basepath. 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."

 

 

 

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