There is no doubt about it. When it comes to winning Derbies, Calvin Borel is the expert and all other jockeys should take note. On a day when everyone was ready to crown Union Rags, it was not the heavy favorite that crossed that wire first. Rather, it was Take Charge Indy, the colt who had skipped the Tampa Bay Derby due to a bad post position, that took home all the glory. In his first ever Florida Derby ride, Borel guided the upstart colt to victory on a breezy, sunny day at Gulfstream Park. Obviously, skipping one Derby in favor of another paid off for trainer Patrick Byrne, who earned his first stakes win since 2005 with today’s victory in the 63rd running of the Grade 1 Florida Derby.
At the break, Take Charge Indy and Borel were quick out of the gate, taking advantage of the three hole to get out front and over near the rail. Union Rags and El Padrino were also out in good order, while News Pending simply strolled out of the gate. Longshot Reveron with Fernando Jara aboard quickly moved up to run with the leader. Union Rags with Julien Leparoux aboard had to settle for a hard held fifth in the early stages, bottled up in amongst rivals. Take Charge Indy led the field through fractions of 23:60 for the opening quarter and 47:71 for the half with Reveron tracking the pace right outside of him the whole time. As the field hit the final turn, Fort Loudon moved up outside and ahead of Union Rags, who had absolutely no where to go. With a five wide wall of horses in front of him, Leparoux chose to stay to the inside. When a hole finally opened up for the favorite, it was too little, too late. Despite a very game effort, Union Rags simply had too much to do, though he did manage to get up for the show. Take Charge Indy led from gate to wire, and Reveron stayed with him the whole time to hang on to the place. Second choice El Padrino finished fourth. Neck 'n Neck, Fort Loudon, News Pending, and Z Camelot rounded out the order of finish, though Z Camelot was eased in the final stages after trailing the entire race.
Not to take anything away from Borel’s first Florida Derby win, but there were a few contributing factors to Take Charge Indy’s win and Union Rags’ loss. Firstly, Rags was back up to his usual bad habits, rearing up after exiting the van. Shortly thereafter, he lost a shoe and had to be re-shod in the saddling paddock. Trainer Michael Matz stated in a post-race interview, however, that neither of those two incidents had anything to do with Rags’ loss. The biggest factors then were racing position and pace. During the race, it appeared to be Javier Castellano’s (aboard El Padrino) mission to put himself in a position to win while keeping Rags and Leparoux in a position that would not allow them to win. In that case, Castellano can consider that a mission accomplished. He and El Padrino successfully kept Union Rags bottled up until it was too late. His ride did not appear to affect El Padrino’s placement either adversely or positively as the colt was not going to catch the leaders anyway. Lastly is the pace. Take Charge Indy was allowed to get away with very reasonable fractions on the lead, running 6 furlongs in 1:12.09 on a track that traditionally favors speed.
Take Charge Indy’s win and Reveron’s place vaulted them both up into the Top 20 in Graded Earnings. Indy’s $600,000 winner’s share of the $1 million purse ensures him a place in the starting gate come May; however, Reveron will likely still have some work to do. The $200,000 second place finisher’s share moved him up to about 18th in the standings, but he will need more earnings in order to retain his position since there are still several huge prep purses up for grabs in the coming weeks. As for Union Rags, he already had enough earnings to ensure his place in the Run for the Roses, and today’s loss probably constitutes more of a learning curve than a setback for the flashy bay colt who was, earlier today, described as being full of swagger.