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Breeders' Cup 2017

Will Take Charge Continues to Improve for Lukas

A long year for Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge continued to improve on Saturday when the D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of Unbridled’s Song rolled to a 2 ¼-length victory over Moreno in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (GI) at Parx Racing.

Will Take Charge, who failed to finish in the top four in any of the Triple Crown races, notched his second consecutive victory in a $1 million race. He had edged Moreno in his previous start in Saratoga’s Travers, but disposed of that rival more easily this time around. 

The victory put Will Take Charge in serious contention for the Eclipse Award that will go the top 3-year-old in the U.S. and he climbed up the list of major contenders for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov.2.  Lukas believes his chestnut colt will be a serious player when he faces older rivals in the Classic.

“He’ll be tough on ‘em,” Lukas said. “He’s getting better and he’s got five or six weeks more to mature some more. He’s put on about 25 pounds since the Travers, so he’s filling out and really getting stronger.”

Will Take Charge now has five victories in 12 races, and his four wins in nine 2013 starts that also include stakes victories at Oaklawn Park in the Grade II Rebel on March 13 and the Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 21. Although he had no success during the Triple Crown run in the spring, Will Take Charge encountered major traffic problems at the head of the stretch in the Kentucky Derby that could have cost him a placing on the first Saturday in May.

“One of the things that’s significant is that he started running in January and he’s run in every 3-year-old race in the country,” Lukas said. “Nobody else has. He’s made every dance.”

Will Take Charge will train-up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs and travel to Santa Anita the week before his year-end objective. 

The Pennsylvania Derby continued a year of resurgence for the ageless Lukas, who turned 78 on the day of a victory in Saratoga’s Grade I Hopeful Stakes by 2-year-old star Strong Mandate., who is being pointed toward the Champagne (GI) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). His Preakness (GI) victory with Calumet Farm’s Oxbow was his record 14th victory in a Triple Crown race, breaking a tie with Hall of Fame training legend “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons.

Lukas said his career has been “very gratifying.” And, of course, the year is far from over.

“I’m really happy for my clientele, all across the board,” Lukas said. “They’re all new except for (Bob) Baker and (Bill) Mack, of course. I’ve had them with me forever. I’ve won a lot of nice races, but I love to see the excitement and expression on these guys faces when they win one. It’s really great.”

Meanwhile, Dallas Stewart – a former Lukas assistant – was relieved on Sunday after he sent Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul, the runner-up to Orb in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, out for morning jog.

It was the first trip to the track for the homebred son of Perfect Soul since he finished a disappointing ninth out of 12 on Wednesday as the favorite in a 1 ½-mile allowance race over the undulating turf course at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky. 

Stewart said Golden Soul dropped out of contention after he took what appeared to be a “bad step” on the far turn of that race. Golden Soul came out of the race with a sore foot and pastern, and the trouble spot was thoroughly soaked while veterinarians took a close look.

“He’s fine,” Stewart said. “He X-rayed good and he jogged good, so I think we’re OK.”

Wednesday’s scare at Kentucky Downs came in Golden Soul’s debut on the grass. He has failed to finish better than seventh in three starts since his runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby, but Stewart said he’ll consider a plan for a fall campaign soon.

“I don’t know where we’ll go next, we’ll just have to get our heads together and see,” Stewart said. “We’ll regroup.”

Golden Soul has a career record of 1-3-0 in 10 races with earnings of $533,034.


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