(Unbridled’s Song x Take Charge Lady, by Dehere)
- Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
- Jockey: Luis Saez
- Owned by: Eaton
- Career Record: 13:5-2-1
- Earnings: $1,827,371
- 2013 Record: 9:4-1-0
- 2013 accomplishments: G1 winner at 10 furlongs (Travers Stakes)
- Santa Anita record: 0:0-0-0
- TrueNicks rating: N/A
- Dosage Index: 3.33
- Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2013: 114 (unchanged from last year)
- Won last prep [1st, Pennsylvania Derby, by 2 1/4 lengths]
- Aims to be the first 3-year-old to win the Classic since Raven’s Pass in 2008
Summary: It seemed almost too easy to dismiss Will Take Charge as a competitive horse, even after narrowly defeating stablemate and eventual Preakness winner Oxbow in the G2 Rebel Stakes in the spring. Unbridled’s Song progeny are traditionally “early bird” talents, and the big hunky chestnut was taking a while to find his stride as well as his class. But, he was a true late bloomer for his late sire, who is having an impeccable year of big winners, grabbing the Travers Stakes and then the Pennsylvania Derby in a way that suggested he was going to keep on getting better with age.
Prep Schedule: Like many Lukas horses, Will Take Charge has raced unfettered every month. Forwardly-placed and wide as a barrel the whole race, Will Take Charge took control in his first start as a three-year-old, winning the Smarty Jones Stakes at a mile, defeating Texas Bling by a neck. He hung around the back of the field upon stepping up in class— the Southwest Stakes (II) for three-year-olds— until late, where he passed a few horses to finish a distant 6th. In March, he showed his game sneaking up to stablemate Oxbow to win the Rebel (II) by a nose to prove himself a contender. However, he was pinched back and well-beaten, racing 8th in the Kentucky Derby (I). Hoping it was just a minor glitch due to mud and field size, he was entered back in the Preakness (I), where he showed little ambition to finish 7th. Even less ambitiously, the added ground of the Belmont (I) did not help, and he finished 10th after going a bit wide and had a bumpy break. He was a seemingly new horse by the end of July, however, reigniting late to just miss the Jim Dandy (II) to Palace Malice by just a length. Reinvigorated, he made a similar late rush from off-the-pace again in the Travers (I), winning that 10-furlong beast by a head over Moreno. Again facing Moreno and others in the Pennsylvania Derby (II), he seemed to improve using the same strategy, this time winning by 2 1/4 lengths.
Physique: Very chunky and heavyset, paired with the chrome WTC reminds me of a Clydesdale rather than a Thoroughbred. He’s a smooth and relaxed sort of mover as I observed and liked leading up to the Belmont, and doesn’t look like he’s regressed at all physically. Big muscle equals big powerful movements, the key to his late kick.
Pedigree: Unbridled’s Song is a hot sire for distances both short and long, and he has been particularly razor-hot this year with WTC, Graydar, Cross Traffic, and others winning big races. Take Charge Lady needs little intro as well as a G1 winning distance mare and the dam of G1 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy. Inbreeding up close is light with two crosses to Fappiano, who has been a super influence among graded winners as of late.
Running Style: Mid-pack stretch runner
Pros: He just keeps getting better and better as a late-blooming horse, and the taxing Lukas style campaign has appeared to improved him rather than tired him. He is probably the smartest and smarmiest of the three-year-old entries and features the most upside as an improver who won’t get sucked into the fast pace. Oh did I mention he has run pretty well no matter where he’s shipped?
Cons: He has yet to have that defining race that keys him as a top three-year-old, never mind a top Classic contender. This will be his first start against older horses, and in the Travers he defeated many questionable horses— ability and fitness-wise— and wasn’t resolutely challenged by anything new in the PA Derby.
Final Word: His pedigree is top-notch. He’s on the improve. He’ll be sitting off what will likely be a boiling pace to pounce late. Dare I say, I like Will Take Charge the best of the three-year-olds, but I’m still on the fence as to whether or not he has enough to win.