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Blog - RACING

Will Take Charge proved that his Travers win wasn't a fluke in the Pennsylvania Derby (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).

With back-to-back wins in the Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby, Will Take Charge has placed himself right in the thick of the race for the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

The Unbridled’s Song colt charged to the lead from the inside on Saturday at Parx Racing and shrugged off pacesetter Moreno to win the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by 2 ¼ lengths.

Less than a month ago, Will Take Charge’s name could not have been mentioned in any serious discussion for an Eclipse Award. Yet after winning the Travers on Aug. 24 and the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 21, he’s suddenly a title contender.

At this point, I’d rank Orb comfortably in front thanks to wins in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. I think those three wins trump Will Take Charge’s Grade 2 wins in the Rebel and Pennsylvania Derby plus the Grade 1 Travers, and it’s not exactly a photo finish.

I give extra credit for the Kentucky Derby when considering the 3-year-old championship each year because it is both the race everyone wants to win and the hardest race to win.

A trainer has to have a 3-year-old with elite talent, who is peaking at the right time, run the race of his life. Sometimes, because of the congestion caused by a 20-horse field, even that is not enough.

But this weekend was Will Take Charge’s chance to prove his Travers victory was no fluke and he did just that for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and owner Willis Horton.

Ridden by Luis Saez, Will Take Charge rallied through an opening on the inside to confront Moreno in the stretch and steadily pulled away to win by a comfortable margin. He completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.28 for his fifth win in 13 races. He won his second straight $1 million race and the $562,000 Pennsylvania Derby winner’s share boosted his career earnings to $1,827,371.

With Palace Malice and Orb slated to tackle older horses next weekend in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, we could have a much clearer picture of the 3-year-old division in just a few days. Stay tuned!

In the last ten years, quite a few very special fillies have won the Cotillion Stakes, including champions Ashado (2004), Havre de Grace (2010) and My Miss Aurelia (2011). Close Hatches might not win champion 3-year-old filly this year – it will be very tough to overtake Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar – but there is no doubting her class following her victory in Saturday’s Cotillion.

CLOSE HATCHES WON HER SECOND STRAIGHT GRADE ONE

Close Hatches

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Close Hatches has now won the Grade 1 Mother Goose and the Grade 1 Cotillion in consecutive starts. With another graded stakes win in the Gazelle in April and more than $1 million in earnings this year, Close Hatches is no doubt a top-class filly. Who knows, a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff against older females might be enough to give Close Hatches a legitimate shot at the division championship. In head-to-head meetings, Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar both have one victory.

Of course, there is a pretty nice filly out in Southern California who might have a big say in this race as well. Beholder has a pair of Grade 1 wins and a quality second in the Kentucky Oaks. Should she win the Distaff, Beholder would have an excellent claim on the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award.

I was one of those who had handed the division title to Princess of Sylmar after her third straight Grade 1 win in the Alabama in August. Perhaps that coronation was a tad hasty. This is an excellent group of 3-year-old fillies.

Cluster of Stars turned in a visually impressive win in the Gallant Bloom Handicap on Sept. 21, surging well clear of Grade 1 winner Dance to Bristol for a dominant victory. Cluster of Stars halted Dance to Bristol’s seven-race winning streak with remarkable ease to win the 6 ½-furlong race by five lengths for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Turtle Bird Stables.

Cluster of Stars improved to six wins in as many starts and looks like a strong contender for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. The 4-year-old Greeley’s Galaxy filly was making her first start since she won the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap in April at Aqueduct.

Champion Shanghai Bobby returned last week for his first start since the Florida Derby on March 30. The Harlan’s Holiday colt came through for trainer Todd Pletcher with a hard-fought neck win in the Aljamin Stakes on Sept. 20.

Pletcher was pleased with the performance following the long layoff. The trainer reported that Shanghai Bobby emerged from the race in good order and will probably target either the Breeders’ Cup Sprint or the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

SHANGHAI BOBBY WINS HIS RETURN 

Bobby Inside

Photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglinese Photos

Shanghai Bobby won all five of his starts in 2012, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Champagne Stakes, en route to taking home the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. The Aljamin was his first win in three starts in 2013.

West Point Thoroughbreds’ Suns Out Guns Out won an allowance race on the Pennsylvania Derby undercard and will be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

Image Description

Mike Curry

A native of Philadelphia who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Del., Curry was editor of Thoroughbred Times TODAY before joining the America's Best Racing team in May 2012. He credits his grandfather for the inspiration to repeatedly sneak off to Delaware Park as a 16-year-old and the 1989 rivalry between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for his passion for horse racing. Curry graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Journalism. He worked for the Wilmington News Journal and was Sports Editor of the Cecil Whig before moving to Lexington in 2005.

Image Description

Mike Curry

A native of Philadelphia who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Del., Curry was editor of Thoroughbred Times TODAY before joining the America's Best Racing team in May 2012. He credits his grandfather for the inspiration to repeatedly sneak off to Delaware Park as a 16-year-old and the 1989 rivalry between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for his passion for horse racing. Curry graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Journalism. He worked for the Wilmington News Journal and was Sports Editor of the Cecil Whig before moving to Lexington in 2005.

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