04/14/2014 3:15PM

Tale of Two Wins


It wasn't the prettiest of victories - in fact it was downright ugly -  but 3-year-old champion WILL TAKE CHARGE returned to the winner's circle in last Saturday's Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap.

Trained by Wayne Lukas, the consistent son of Unbridled's Song was sent away the prohibitive 2-5 favorite and settled near the back of the compact six-horse field. Jockey Luis Saez kept Will Take Charge unhurried and three paths off the rail as longshot RIGHT TO VOTE set fractions of 23.43 and 47.68. On the final turn, Will Take Charge uncorked a four-wide bid to reach the front, but he drifted in badly under right-handed urging in upper stretch and changed leads twice during the last eighth of a mile. Will Take Charge completed the nine furlongs in 1:49.55 (103 Beyer) while finishing three-quarters of a length better than REVOLUTIONARY and then withstood a lengthy stewards inquiry as well as two claims of foul.

GOLDEN LAD raced directly inside of Will Take Charge turning for home. It is questionable whether he would have impacted the finish with a crystal-clear run, but he not only was put in tight by Will Take Charge, but was bumped offstride by Revolutionary in midstretch. It might be best to simply draw a line through his race.

As for Revolutionary, it's quite possible that he would have won it all if he wasn't intimidated by the mammoth Will Take Charge in midstretch. It appeared as if Revolutionary was moving quite well from in between horses, but he changed back to his left lead and seemed to lose some momentum as Will Take Charge drifted close to his path. Revolutionary switched to his right lead once again once Will Take Charge was clear and rallied with some gusto for the runner-up spot.

Perhaps Will Take Charge needs a little vacation. He's raced 12 times in the last 13 months, competed in all three Triple Crown events last year, and gave gutbusting performances in the Travers, Breeders' Cup Classic and Clark Handicap. When he's right, he's near the top of the list of leading older runners. The Oaklawn Handicap will not go down as one of his finest triumphs, however.

On the other hand, WISE DAN is like Old Man River. He just keeps rolling along.

In capturing the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile, Wise Dan prevailed for the 20th time in his illustrious career. He received a 100 Beyer, his fifteenth consecutive triple-digit speed figure. That ties him with Lite the Fuse for seventh on my highly unofficial list of 100+ Beyer streaks (Cigar, Kona Gold, and Sandpit lead the way with nineteen).

Wise Dan was eager in the early stages of the Maker's 46. He pulled John Velazquez into a pace-tracking spot while three paths of the rail entering the backstretch, but settled down before a half-mile was completed. Velazquez kept Wise Dan out of trouble four wide entering the far turn, and they moved in tandem with Grade 1 winner Lochte. Wise Dan tucked Lochte into bed at the furlong pole and held longshot Kaigun three-quarters of a length safe at the wire. Wise Dan didn't break any speed records (one mile in 1:34.91) and didn't win by a wide margin, but it was a professional performance and a useful steppingstone to races like the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the May 3 Kentucky Derby undercard.

Trainer Charlie LoPresti, the mastermind behind Wise Dan's remarkable career, mentioned to Keeneland Publicity that he wasn't sure he had the two-time Horse of the Year fully cranked. "I told (jockey) Johnny (Velazquez) going into the race that ‘I just don’t have him as tight as I need to, but just give him an easy race and if he’s good enough to win. just do the best you can to save him for the next one.’ This one is going to put us where we need to be.”

"He got a little strong on the backstretch," Velazquez mentioned to Keeneland Publicity. "So I let him get his position to where he was comfortable. From then on, he did it very well."


I've seen that DANZA earned a 102 Beyer in the Arkansas Derby. Could you tell us the Beyer for RIDE ON CURLIN and TAPITURE in that race?
Also for MEDAL COUNT in the Blue Grass.
Thank you in advance.

Ride On Curlin - 94
Tapiture - 90
Medal Count - 94


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