05/01/2013 12:22PM

Churchill Downs: Take Charge Indy again in tough company with Alysheba foes

Barbara D. Livingston
Take Charge Indy is winless in five starts since taking the 2012 Florida Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Pat Byrne was pleased with the efforts in defeat from Take Charge Indy over the winter at Gulfstream, where his horse was third behind Graydar in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap and second in the Grade 3 Skip Away to Cigar Street.

“He ran into some very good horses, and of course when you run at this level you’re going to,” he said.

Friday, when Take Charge Indy, last year’s Florida Derby winner, runs in the Grade 2, $300,000 Alysheba Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs, it is the same story once again.

[2013 KENTUCKY OAKS: Get PPs, read live ontrack updates]

He is matched against eight rivals that include such accomplished horses as Hymn Book, the 2012 Donn winner; Macho Macho, winner of the 2012 West Virginia Derby; Bourbon Courage, the 2012 Super Derby winner; and Cyber Secret, last month’s winner of the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap.

Although Take Charge Indy is winless in five starts since taking the Florida Derby last year, Byrne remains confident in his horse, who finished second, beaten a length, when last racing at Churchill Downs in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 23. The trainer has emphasized short works with him in recent weeks to tone his speed and expects him to be on or close to the pace.

“He’s a legitimate speed horse,” he said. “The horse is ready.”

Rosie Napravnik rides Take Charge Indy, an A.P. Indy colt owned in partnership by WinStar Farm and Chuck and Maribeth Sandford.

The streaking horse coming into Alysheba is Cyber Secret. A colt with just two victories through the end of his 3-year-old year, he has since gone on a roll, winning four straight at Oaklawn Park including the Razorback and Oaklawn handicaps.

He dominated in the Oaklawn Handicap, surging from off the pace to score by 5 3/4 lengths and earning a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, easily the top last-race figure in the Alysheba field.

His trainer, Lynn Whiting, said the key area of development with Cyber Secret this year has been that he has relaxed, in contrast to last year, when he was eager to chase the speed horses.

“Then at the quarter pole he was out of bullets,” Whiting said.

Whether he can transfer his Oaklawn form to Churchill Downs, where he was seventh in one prior start as a 2-year-old in fall 2011, is an unknown.

Whiting acknowledged Cyber Secret didn’t handle the surface that fall, but expects a different racetrack Friday on Oaks Day.

“They keep it tighter in the spring,” he said.

Also likely to play a major role in the Alysheba is Bourbon Courage, second this year in the Donn and third in the New Orleans Handicap, both times losing to Graydar, who has since been sidelined.

His trainer, Kellyn Gorder, felt Bourbon Courage was a recipient of poor racing luck in the New Orleans Handicap, racing in traffic inside horses.

“He runs so much better when he gets clear and gets to the outside,” he said.

Drawn in post 8 in the field of nine, he is positioned to get the trip Gorder wants.