11/30/2013 12:22PM

Churchill Downs: Owner hoping to race Will Take Charge in 2014

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Owner Willis Horton leads Will Take Charge following his victory in Friday's Grade 1 Clark Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Owner Willis Horton said he very much wants to run Will Take Charge next year as a 4-year-old and that his ideal scenario is a deal with a breeding farm allowing that to happen.

Horton, who has been heavily wooed by several prominent farms to sell Will Take Charge for future stud purposes, said he would like to settle the issue this week, with him retaining at least a minority share while getting to campaign the colt for another year.

“I can’t sleep at night with this deal going on,” said Horton, a 73-year-old retired businessman who lives in Marshall, Ark. “I just want it over with. I hope I could keep part of him and get to run him next year. That’s my plan.”

With his dramatic victory over Game On Dude in the Clark Handicap on Friday at Churchill Downs, Will Take Charge all but clinched the 2013 Eclipse Award for top 3-year-old while also perhaps putting his name into a Horse of the Year debate that has been widely conceded to Wise Dan.

Getting three pounds (126-123) from highweighted Game On Dude – which is the standard concession from older horses to 3-year-olds in the fall – Will Take Charge was up in the desperate final jumps to take the Grade 1 Clark by a head. The Unbridled’s Song colt has earned more than $3 million.

Will Take Charge, who earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Clark, will head to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas early this week with the rest of the D. Wayne Lukas stable. The victory capped a terrific comeback year for Lukas, the 78-year-old Hall of Fame trainer whose other major winners this year included Oxbow, Strong Mandate, and Optimizer.

Will Take Charge struggled in the Triple Crown series, finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby with a very troubled trip, followed by a seventh in the Preakness and 10th in the Belmont Stakes. Clearly, Lukas’s faith in – and perseverance with – the colt was vindicated for a final time in 2013 with the sensational Clark finish.

“I’ll go to my grave believing that we could have won the Kentucky Derby,” Lukas said. “After that, it set him back a little – that little trip in the Derby didn’t equate very good to the Preakness and the Belmont, which came up bang-bang. But then we had a little time to get him right again. With all due respect [to Orb and his connections], I’d like to run the Kentucky Derby over again.”

Lukas said all major races in 2014 will be taken under consideration for Will Take Charge, including the $10 million Dubai World Cup in late March, assuming the colt is not retired to stud.

Moquett heading to Oaklawn

In the spring, trainer Ron Moquett was a happy camper when sending out stakes-proven horses such as Gentlemen’s Bet, Right to Vote, and Livi Makenzie for victories at Churchill (where he was 8 for 39) while also winning multiple races at Prairie Meadows and Indiana Downs.

Heading into Saturday, the last of 25 days at the Churchill fall meet, Moquett was just 1 for 34, with 5 seconds and 4 thirds, and with all but a few of his horses already having departed for Oaklawn.

“We’re regrouping in Hot Springs and hoping to have a big winter there,” Moquett said. “We’re not in this game for the win pictures; we want to get the most out of our horses, and that means sometimes your win percentage will suffer. This meet we’d drop a horse from $20,000 to $15,000 and get beat by somebody dropping from $40,000 to $15,000. A lot of that seemed to be happening, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Moquett said he had no particular race in mind for Gentlemen’s Bet, the speedy colt who was briefly considered for the Cigar Mile after finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Neil Granowitz More than 1 year ago
Keep him the (H) away from Dubai. It screws up most American horses. My plan (as if the owners are listening or reading) would be; the Donn in February, then Oaklawn after that, followed by the Foster or the Suburban, then the Whitney or the Woodward, and finally the Breeders Cup.
Mary Adkins-Matthews More than 1 year ago
I agree with you.. hope they don't take him to Dubai
Chris Gee More than 1 year ago
Let me get this straight....these two, Lukas and Horton, who may have been bus boys at the last supper, are sitting around worrying about the breeding money? Do they not have enough money to live on for another year or two until the horse is ready to be retired? Gentlemen, keep your horse and enjoy him as long as possible. Mr. Horton particularly, you may never see another one like him in your lifetime. You may be IN the ground before any foals reach the track. The entire issue is ridiculous.
David Davison More than 1 year ago
I am Mr. Hortons next door neighbor and friend i think that i may be able to give some perspective on this issue. Willis loves to be able to go to Oklawn in his car with his friends and family and just have a old fashion good time at the races. Having one of the best horses is what he always wanted now we as friends and neighbors can go enjoy the spoils of the victor with him. Willis is a very good business man and am sure that he will make good what ever he decides to do.
R. Carlos Nanez More than 1 year ago
Moquette Ojete just got lucky, he can't train a billy goat.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Which only proves its the horse. Will Take Charge has become quite a horse in the past year. I think he will take the BC Classic next year.
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
Mr Horton, I don't really understand your wording in this article.....? He is YOUR horse so why should you have to "hope" to be able to keep him....? Either don't sell him or insist on keeping a percentage and insist that he race next year. It's that simple.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Well said - hard to understand how some folks make a simple prop so complicated.
akhiym james More than 1 year ago
Dubai is not the place for this horse. Start him off in the Donn Handicap then Big Cap. Go to Charles Town for the Classic the Stephen Foster. Would say Hollywood Gold Cup but don't what will happen with the race but if they run something in it's place at Santa Anita then run there. The Whitney or Woodward or both then classic or Whitney/Woodward then Gold Cup then Classic. Or the Awesome Again after the Whitney/Woodward then Classic. Would be a great schedule for today's handicap horse as there aren't many races it used to be for them and horses don't run as much as they did but should be a good horse if they run him
TriniLoo More than 1 year ago
Run the horse again? Money talks and ................ walks! Not sure why Mr. Horton is losing sleep. As I said in a post yesterday, Coolmore/Darley/Takaya Shimakawa/pick another racer/breeder........................... are all calling, with checkbook's at their side. Even if Mr. Horton does get to race the colt next year, forget the Dubai race. Once he goes there, he is basically done for 6 months after making the trip. Take the money, and it's going to be lots of money, and take another shot with the babies.
Victoria More than 1 year ago
Mr Horton - Remember, you are the owner of this very rare and precious thoroughbred. You set the terms and let the buyers compete. Believe me, they will and they'll meet your terms. For too many years the breeders have bullied the racing owners with their take it or leave it offers. The owners of the truly good ones shouldn't have capitulated because they have had the power all along. If your horse was one of the many marginally sound, two or three time stakes winners it would be a different story. Instead you have a colt with a ton of talent and even more heart. Give it time and they'll come to you begging. I'm looking forward to him winning the 2014 Whitney and Woodward. Saratogafan (Victoria's husband)
russell More than 1 year ago
I like WTC but you need to be within 3-5 lenghts of the lead to win in Dubai and that's not his style.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Not entirely true Russell. We've seen Will Take Charge up that close (or nearly that close, say within 7 lengths) in both of his last two races. Santa Anita plays on that 3 to 5 length rule pretty much too and you can make an argument that if Palace Malice doesn't take him way wide in the stretch, then WTC actually wins BCC. With that said, I hate the Dubai World Cup for this horse. This is a Turf Race being paraded like it's a dirt race. It's no coincidence that the last American horses to win were bred as much or more to Turf than dirt (Animal Kingdom's only dirt win came in the Derby and Curlin was a rare horse who clearly could run on anything). It's worth noting that Curlin's connections did the smart thing and prepped over the Meydan Surface prior to the World Cup. To me, that's by far the best approach, but I think the risk is too great to what could be a HOTY campaign if they keep WTC stateside. I say give WTC a short rest and aim for the Big Cap and beyond. Maybe he could get longer breaks in between races after that, but I don't know why you wouldn't want to keep his winning momentum.
rdeeps52 More than 1 year ago
if memory serves, Dubai was still dirt when Curlin won over there. THought his races were at Nad Al Sheba
Diana Levy More than 1 year ago
When an owner HOPES a stud farm will work a deal that will let him race his colt for another year that means retirement is in the foreseeable future. Horton doesn't want the risk on his own and Stronach is one of the very few breeders who seems willing to do the kind of deal it seems this man wants. Stronach doesn't pay the kind of money Darley, Coolmore, Winstar would and doesn't go after this type of pedigree like they would.