River Seven Can Upset Will Take Charge in Donn


River Seven, above, won the Harlan's Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park to close his 2013 campaign. He has the potential to upset Will Take Charge on Sunday in the Donn Handicap. (Photo by Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park)

The Grade 1, $500,000 Donn Handicap will be the first start of 2014 for Will Take Charge, who, except for a nose defeat at the hands of Mucho Macho Man in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic, was perfect over the last five months of the year, including wins in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes and Grade 1 Clark Handicap. Two recent stakes winners at Gulfstream Park, Lea and River Seven, might pose the biggest threat to the probable betting favorite. Lea won the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Stakes last month in his first start after moving to the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, while River Seven was equally impressive winning the Harlan's Holiday Stakes in December. Another top contender is last year's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary, who returned from a seven-month layoff in January to win nicely on this track and who can certainly improve off the comeback effort. Last year’s Donn Handicap runner-up Bourbon Courage enters the race off a third-place finish in the Harlan's Holiday Stakes behind River Seven and can improve. Uncaptured earned his biggest win last year in the Prince of Wales Stakes and most recently finished fourth behind Lea in the Hal’s Hope. Romansh was well beaten in two races versus Will Take Charge last summer but won the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap powerfully by nine lengths at the distance of the Donn when last seen in November. He could be even stronger as a newly turned 4-year-old. Neck ‘n Neck won both the Grade 2 Indiana Derby and the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap last fall but has lost three races in a row since, first to River Seven and then to Lea. Joshua’s Comprise, Macho Bull and Viramundo round out the field. 

Tune in to Fox Sports 1 at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday for coverage of the Donn Handicap and Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. 

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River Seven ended his 2013 campaign with a career-best Equibase Speed Figure effort winning the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park, beating multiple stakes winner Csaba as well as fellow Donn entrants Bourbon Courage, Neck ’n Neck and Joshua's Comprise. As a 2-year-old in the fall of 2012, River Seven won the important Grey Stakes then last summer finished second in three straight races before really improving to win the Labeeb Stakes by a hefty 10-length margin in October. Following that up with a win in the Commonwealth Stakes in November before taking the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes, River Seven appears ready to move up into the top level of stakes competition on Sunday and only needs slight improvement to post the upset and win this year's Donn Handicap.

Will Take Charge was just short of earning $3 million in 2013 with a fantastic campaign in the summer and fall that earned him the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. After winning the Rebel Stakes in March to stamp himself a strong Kentucky Derby contender, Will Take Charge fell apart in all three Triple Crown races as he finished eighth in the Derby, seventh in the Preakness and 10th in the Belmont. However, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas found the colt’s hole card with strong victories in the Traver’s Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby before the toughest of losses by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, earning 119 Equibase Speed Figure in both of those races. Topping off the year with a game win by a head over Game On Dude in the Clark Handicap at the distance of the Donn, Will Take Charge could easily pick up where he left off last fall, with a Grade 1 stakes win.


Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

Lea had a poor 2013 campaign in which he won just one of five races and went 0-for-4 in stakes. However, after 2 1/2 months off and after moving to the barn of another Hall of Fame trainer in Bill Mott, Lea rebounded to the best form of his career, winning the Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream easily by three lengths with a 112 Equibase Speed Figure that could easily be improved upon in his second start off the layoff.

Revolutionary deserves honorable mention as a contender because he, too, has lots of room to improve in his second start of the year. Last year’s Withers Stakes and Louisiana Derby winner took seven months off following a fifth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes but returned just last month with a strong win on this track. With improvement possible off that 109 Equibase Speed Figure, he could be a factor with the top contenders in this race.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure: Bourbon Courage (121), Joshua's Comprise (107), Macho Bull (101), Neck 'n Neck (110), Romansh (113), Viramundo (106) and Uncaptured (105). 

My Selections:

River Seven

Will Take Charge



$500,000 Donn Handicap

Sunday, Gulfstream Park, Race 12, 6:01 p.m. ET

4-year-olds and older, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)








Miguel Mena


Mark Casse


Will Take Charge

Luis Saez


D. Wayne Lukas



Javier Castellano


Todd Pletcher


Neck ‘n Neck

Julien Leparoux


Ian Wilkes


River Seven

Joe Rocco Jr.


Nicholas Gonzalez



John Velazquez


Tom Albertrani



Paco Lopez


Marty Wolfson



Joel Rosario


Bill Mott


Bourbon Courage

Jose Lezcano


Kellyn Gorder


Macho Bull

Magomet Kappushev


Gennadi Dorochenko


Joshua’s Comprise

Francisco Maysonnett


Barry Rose

Commonly Used Gambling Terms

Account wagering – Betting by internet or phone, in which a bettor must open an account and deposit money with which to bet.

Across the board – A bet on a horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, the player collects three ways; if second, two ways; and if third, one way, losing the win and place bets. Actually, three bets.

Bounce – An especially poor performance on the heels of an especially good one.

Box – A betting term denoting a combination bet whereby all possible numeric combinations are covered for certain horses.

Bridge jumper – A person who wagers large amounts of money, usually on short- priced horses to show, hoping to realize a small but almost certain profit. The term comes from the structure those bettors may seek if they lose the bet.

Chalk – Betting favorite in a race.

Chalk player – Gambler who wagers on favorites.

Daily Double (or Double) – Type of bet calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races.

Exacta – A wager in which the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked.

Exacta box – A wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are selected.

Exotic (bet) – Any bet other than win, place, or show that requires multiple combinations. Examples of exotic wagers are trifecta, Pick 6, Pick 4.

Handle – Amount of money wagered in the pari-mutuel system on a race, full day of races, or entire racing season at a track.

In the money – A horse that finishes first, second or third.

Key horse – A single horse used in multiple combinations in an exotic bet.

Morning line – The starting odds set by the track handicapper.

On the board – Finishing among the first three.

On the nose – Betting a horse to win only.

Overlay – A horse whose odds are greater than its potential to win.

Pari-mutuel – System of wagering where all the money is returned to the bettors after deduction of track and state percentages.

Parlay – A multi-race bet in which all winnings are subsequently wagered on a succeeding race.

Part wheel – Using a key horse or horses in different, but not all possible, exotic wagering combinations.

Pick (6 or other number) – A type of multi-race bet in which the winners of all the included races must be selected. Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6 are commonly used by tracks in the United States.

Place bet – A bet on a horse to finish first or second.

Quinella - Bet in which the first two finishers must be picked in either order.

Show bet – A bet on a horse to finish in the money; third or better.

Speed Figure – A metric that rates a horse’s performance in a race, which is determined by a combination of the horse’s performance and the level of competition he/she competed against.

Trifecta – A bet in which the first three finishers must be selected in exact order.

Trifecta box – A trifecta wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are bet upon.

Underlay – Horse whose odds are more promising than his potential to win.

Win – A bet on a horse to finish first.

Wheel – Betting all possible combinations in an exotic wager using at least one horse as the key.

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