Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
The G1 Clark Handicap
was a two horse race on paper, and that is exactly how things turned out when
the real running commenced. The King of California, Game On Dude, came away
with the lead as the field turned for home, and for all intents and purposes,
it looked as though he had the win in the bag for much of the stretch run. But
as the wire loomed near, 3-year old upstart Will Take Charge had much to say about the outcome.
Despite jockey Mike Smith asking him for run early, Game On Dude’s advantageous rail draw
did not exactly pan out in terms of getting the lead. Instead speedy Our Double
Play rocketed from his outside post and cut across to the rail to do the early
dirty work. Game On Dude settled in third to the outside, and Will Take Charge
comfortably stalked the pace in fourth. As the race progressed, Game On Dude
inched up to press the issue to the outside of Our Double Play. Racing with
little more than a length separating them, the duo clicked off fractions of
23:80 and 47:29.
As they hit the turn, Game On Dude drew on even terms with
pacesetting Our Double Play and then put that foe away, clicking off the first
three-quarters in 1.11:14. Meanwhile, jockey Luis Saez had taken Will Take
Charge wide, giving him plenty of room to unfurl those long legs of his.
Straightening for home, Game On Dude looked home free, but Will Take Charge was
just getting warmed up. Seeming to know just where the wire was, Will Take
Charge passed Game On Dude in deep stretch to record the win by a head.
Grade 3 winner Easter Gift closed
from third last to grab third. The order of finish was completed by Bourbon Courage, Jaguar Paw, Finnegan’s Wake, Our Double Play, Golden Ticket, and Prayer for Relief.
As the second choice in the field of 9, Will Take Charge
returned $6.80, $3.00, and $2.60. Game On Dude, the post time favorite, returned
$3.40 and $2.60, and Easter Gift returned $5.20. The winning exacta returned just
$18.60 for a $2 wager, and the trifecta paid $60.90. The winner’s share of the
purse pushed Will Take Charge’s career earnings past the $3 million mark. Today’s
tally was the colt’s 5th win in 11 starts this year.
No matter what happens in tomorrow’s G1 Cigar Mile, Will Take Charge has sewn up divisional honors. Even
if Verrazano or Goldencents comes away with a win
against a deep field, Will Take Charge has a victory in one of the division’s
biggest races plus a win against his elders and only a nose loss in America’s
glamor race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Verrazano’s record could look better, but
when you break it down, Will Take Charge owns wins in more important races.