Will Take Charge Eager for Next Assignment

Will Take Charge Clark 615 X 400
Photo: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

On the morning after his dramatic, last-gasp victory over favored Game On Dude in the 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I), Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge was accepting peppermints from visitors and generally looking as if he was ready and eager for his next racing assignment.
Friday’s narrow victory in which the 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song powered through the final sixteenth of a mile to edge Game On Dude and other accomplished older rivals by a head, ended any suspense in regard to his chances of earning the Eclipse Award for the top U.S. 3-year-old of 2013. 
The Clark was the finale of an old school racing campaign for the D. Wayne Lukas-trained star that started in January with a victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park and ended with the Clark, his eleventh race of the season.  In between, he won the Rebel (GII) at Oaklawn, muddled through the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown series in which he had little impact, and launched a second-half surge on the year that include victories in the Travers (GI), Pennsylvania Derby (GII) and heartbreaking runner-up finish to Mucho Macho Man in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita.
When he added the exclamation point on his late season rush by overtaking Horse of the Year contender Game On Dude in the Clark, conventional wisdom leaned toward an Eclipse Award for top 3-year-old being a certainty for Will Take Charge. And Bob Baffert, the trainer of Game On Dude, suggested after the Clark that Will Take Charge should be one of those under consideration for “Horse of the Year.”
Although he had been the center of big event and very significant win just hours earlier, Lukas said his colt was very well on Saturday morning.
“He’s very good,” Lukas said. “It’s amazing how composed and everything he was in the winner’s circle. He wasn’t blowing much, or anything.
“I think he struggled with the racetrack a little bit. But maybe the others did, too.”
The victory improved Will Take Charge’s record for his 3-year-old season to 11-5-2-0 with earnings just shy of $3 million at $2,960,977.
Lukas smiled at the notion of how close his durable colt had come to a $3 million season, and suggested, in jest, that he might have one more race in him.
“Well, Turfway’s about to open,” he said. “There’s always the ($50,000) Holiday Inaugural.”
That $50,000 race at the Northern Kentucky track is clearly not on the agenda for Will Take Charge, but Lukas was more confident on Saturday that the improving son of Unbridled’s Song out of the likely “Broodmare of the Year” Take Charge Lady would return to competition in 2014.
While Horton continues to negotiate on a deal for stallion duty for Will Take Charge when the colt ends his racing career, his Hall of Fame trainer is increasingly optimistic that fans will see the colt on the track again.
“We’ve got four farms that are very strong, interested players,” Lukas said. “What I think is gonna happen is either they’ll go partners (with Horton) and run him next year, or they’ll tie him up for the breeding shed and run him next year. I think Willis wants to run him next year. At first there was talk about an outright sale and take him to the breeding shed, but I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Taking that optimistic approach, Lukas said Will Take Charge will take it easy for a while and he would look for a race, probably in March, to launch a 2014 run for the colt. Until then, the glow of the sizzling stretch run that saw Will Take Charge collar Game On Dude in the last instant will be a moment to savor.

“It was a real good race for fans,” Lukas said. “With those two good horses and the way it came down, it was really good.”

\The Clark victory, which was the first stakes victory for Lukas at Churchill Downs since 2009, makes the year of the resurgence of the 78-year-old Lukas all the more impressive. In all of Lukas’ stellar seasons in which he has topped the earnings list or trained one or more champions, he has never quite had a year like 2013.

“I think we did more with less than maybe most of the guys,” Lukas said. “Todd (Pletcher) had a great year and (Charlie) LoPresti was strong. But when you consider what we started with in the barn and look at our year, we had some very good days. But we had a lot of gaps in there between the big races. We didn’t have much in our barn to really say too much about. But I think to develop those three-or-four that we did – (Preakness winner) Oxbow, Will Take Charge and (2-year-old Hopeful winner) Strong Mandate – it’s not a bad run.”       


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Older Comments about Will Take Charge Eager for Next Assignment...

Give the horse a break! He has nothing left to prove and has more than earned a rest. Would hate to see something horrible happen to him because he was pushed to the brink when he has already proved he is a sound racer

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