Will Take Charge was the upset winner in the 144th running of the Travers defeating the three favorites
Palace Malice, Orb, and Verrazano. Sent off at odds of 9.6-1 Will Take Charge
gave trainer D. Wayne Lukas his
third Travers victory, having already won in 1995 with Thunder Gulch and in
1991 with Corporate Report.
The race began as expected
with Moreno taking the lead and
setting the early moderate fractions of :24.4, :48.88, and 1:13.43. Romansh stayed a length or so behind
Moreno with favorite Verrazano right
outside his hip. They stayed this way for the first three quarters of a mile.
Orb had been saving ground along the rail and entering the turn he began to make up
ground on the leaders. Palace Malice broke sluggishly and was eighth in the early going. Yet coming around the
clubhouse turn, the Dogwood Stable colt began a slow but steady rally down the
middle of the track.
With Orb gaining on the
rail and Palace Malice closing down the center of the track, Will Take Charge
was making his move down the three path with very little fanfare.
While a determined Moreno
refused to give up the lead without a fight, Verrazano and Romansh both began
to fade. As Orb had finally reached Moreno, Will Take Charge was moving best of
all and in the final few strides was able to pass Moreno and win the Travers by
Even Lukas wasn’t sure
about the finish, “At about the three-eighths pole I thought we’d get a piece
of it, but I didn’t know if we would get up.”
In preparation for the
Travers Lukas, who is nicknamed “The Coach” from his years as a high school and
college basketball coach, had been making changes that he thought would give
his horse an edge. Many experts wondered what The Coach had in mind.
“I changed up some things.
I took a chance on an up and coming rider [Luis Saez],” said Lukas. “He’s a little over 17 hands and he’s
just trying to find himself. He’s
like that big freshman who is a gawky basketball player, but when he’s a senior
he’s slam-dunking. The horse is
going to get better. He is getting his act together.”
In the end Will Take
Charge won the $1 million dollar grade one over a very gutsy Moreno. Orb finished a close third in his first
race back since the Belmont Stakes. Palace Malice, who may have made up the
most ground of all, managed to finish a close fourth.
The win by Will Take
Charge has made the three year-old colt division even more confusing when most
racing fans thought that the champion would be crowned in the Travers.