11/20/2013 2:56PM

Dick Jerardi: Fine line separates Orb, Will Take Charge

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Barbara D. Livingston
Orb was brilliant early in the season, but winless after the Kentucky Derby.

I have been reading a lot of what has been written about the 3-year-old championship. It is a fascinating subject with no obvious correct answer.

With Horse of the Year decided in favor of Wise Dan again, the 3-year-old title, our second most important, becomes an even bigger deal. It really comes down to how you interpret the evidence. For the purposes of this discussion, it is an either/or. If you want to include horses beyond Orb and Will Take Charge, feel free. I just don’t want to complicate this any more than necessary.

Will the voters look at the entire year and try to put it into context or will they mostly remember the ending?

Orb had a sensational 13 weeks from late January to the first Saturday in May – optional claimer, Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby. That’s a season these days. If Orb had won any of the other four races he entered, we would not be having this discussion. Orb would win the championship easily. But he did not win any of them and was a factor only in the Travers.

Will Take Charge has one of the more curious r é sum é s ever. He was pretty good early in the year, with wins in the Smarty Jones and Rebel, awful in the Triple Crown series when he was beaten by a combined 45 1/4 lengths, and then sensational from late July to early November with a close second in the Jim Dandy, wins in the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby, and a brilliant second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. If Will Take Charge had won the Classic, we are not having this discussion.

I really don’t care about Grade 1, Grade 2, or any of that stuff. I want to know who did you beat, how fast did you run, and did you run winning races even in defeat.

If winning was all that mattered, why do they pay for second? Horse racing often does not reward the best horse with the most money. It is the nature of the game when almost all of the races are decided in less than two minutes and what happens during the race sometimes has more to do with the outcome than the relative talents of the horses. Does anybody really think Smarty Jones was not the best horse in the 2004 Belmont Stakes?

Orb was not very good in the Preakness or Belmont, but he was not awful, finishing fourth and then third. He was a close third behind Will Take Charge in the Travers and a what-is-wrong-with-this-horse last in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, clearly a race that deserves a line through it.

I am with anybody who says the Kentucky Derby matters way more than anything else. It always has. And it should.

This Derby, however, has me wavering. Certainly, you can’t call Orb’s win a fluke. He was the favorite and had the best 2013 r é sum é prior to the race. But the pace obviously impacted the result.

The first five all came from the back. None ever won another race. Normandy Invasion never ran again.

Four of the pace horses – Oxbow, Palace Malice, Verrazano, and Goldencents – won the Preakness, Belmont, Jim Dandy, Haskell, and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Still, it was the Derby, a race that is absolutely worth extra credit.

Will Take Charge was terrible in the most important races for 3-year-olds. For a horse who has won $2.7 million and was a nose from a whole lot more, he has some brutal races on his r é sum é . Five of his losses have been by a total of 88 3/4 lengths.

Was it just the blinkers coming off after the Triple Crown or, as Wayne Lukas says, just a big horse growing up? Given that Will Take Charge has those wins at Oaklawn Park, I am with Wayne. This was always a colt with talent. It just didn’t all come out until the summer.

Will Take Charge’s last four Beyers were 105, 107, 104, and 112. He went from grinder to a horse with a move. He went from unpredictable to consistent and fast and fun to watch.

Orb got two triple-digit Beyers, 104 in the Derby and 106 in the Travers. I think we all felt like there was more there after the Derby, but we never saw it.

Given the recent poll results, it certainly appears that Will Take Charge will get the championship. I don’t think the evidence is that clear cut, but last impressio ns always matter most.

Richard More than 1 year ago
dick, i guess that Lucas knew that there will never be an Unbridled Song that will ever win the Ky.Derby, just as there should not have been a Holy Bull or a Malibu Moon offspring a Derby winner. What do these no stamina MUTTS contribute to the Breed? Both won on drastically strange surface and pace conditions in a race that is often an equine Fire Drill. Being out of a $2.5 million $ mare it should be obvious that Will Take Charge will contribtute much more than that MUTT Orb in the breeding shed. The Derby corked (tore up his respitory system) so he got what he (and Shug deserved !)
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I'm an Orb fan. As well as a Shug fan. They messed up running him in The Belmont after his poor race in Preakness. Should have pointed to Jim Dandy and Travers. The Travers knocked him out as shown in JCGC. Then they were undecided what to do and pointed towards Cigar Mile only to announce his retirement after The BC...my question is why retire an allegedly sound horse with so much at stake? Especially when he breezed in 59 1/5 the week before the BC?? My vote even before Clark results is for longevity...WTC over Orb. This coming from a Guy who doesn't agree with Mr. LUKAS methods or his students. I like Shug..I root for Shug...but who is still running?
nick More than 1 year ago
So you would rather vote for longevity over quality? That makes no sense at all. Will Take Charge was average to below average for most of the first half of the year. Then I guess that horse who raced and won all those starter handicap races and went undefeated two, three or four years ago should have been Champion Older Horse, as well as Horse Of The Year, because he raced and won all year,long?
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
That horse flopped in BC if I follow you correctly. WTC barely got beat in his first race against the "best" older horses. While Orb watched from his stall. Again, I love Orb but fair is fair. If he is sound why not run in Clark and see who is best?
ENAMMELD More than 1 year ago
I'm amazed you can write such ignorant trash and still be published!
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Orb and Will Take Charge and 4 races in common. Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont and the Travers. Orb won the Derby and cashed a check in the other 3. WTC won the Travers and was an also-ran, nowhere to be found in the TC races. His PA Derby/BC Classic (2nd) was a testament to how he matured in the summer and fall. But should that maturity totally eliminate how Orb blossomed in the spring when he won the the Fountain of and Florida Derby? I don't think so. Orb was competitive from January to August. One bad race on the JCGC pales in comparison to the numerous flubs on WTC's report card. Count my 3YO Eclipse vote in the Orb column. His Derby win os the equivalent of 2 Grade I's.....Peace.....
Chris Enlaplaya More than 1 year ago
You've written a good accounting of the two horses but I think, for me, the analysis falls part where your post says, of Orb, "should that maturity totally eliminate how Orb blossomed in the spring...". which doesn't logically connect to the subject of the original article which is about trying to choose which horse is best. Of course picking Will Take Charge doesn't mean Orb did nothing, it is a judgement that based on the facts before us, WTc's past performances are more impressive than Orb's. Orb was great in the spring and peaked in May's Kentucky Derby. Hate to say it, but ever since that first Saturday in May, Orb was nowhere. Leaving him out of exacta tickets was a great idea. But WTC kept improving and comparing the two horses after early May, which means we're now talking about the latter 6 to 7 months of the year, which isn't over yet, it is very clear that WTC far outshone Orb who has already been retired. Even if WTc flops in his next start, I will not forget the fact that WTC took on older horses in the Breeder's Cup Classic and nearly won. WTC looks like a horse to contend with, and he's an obvious pick for an Eclipse Award; I have absolutely zero doubt of that.
Sherry Howell Killough More than 1 year ago
My vote goes to Will Take Charge!
MD23 More than 1 year ago
WTC just turned out to be a better horse. Plain and simple. He got better and better while Orb peaked in the Derby. Orb is a very nice horse but not better than Will Take Charge for the majority of the year. This is three year old OF THE YEAR not three year old of May. BTW I also believe nobody should go with how good a horse is just off of beyers alone, as Jerardi does talk about the beyers at the end of this article. I happen to think certain beyers are wrong. Example: Paynter getting a 100+ (I forgot the exact number) in his comeback allowance race in May. Really? Nice horse but no way he ran that fast. That means he would have won the Triple Bend Handicap that weekend by multiple lengths. Beyers are just not my thing.
nick More than 1 year ago
Read Mr md23, When does your year start, Aug 25? That's just it, Orb WAS better for most of the year, and in bigger races. WTC had a really great fall, but that's just it. Until then, with a minor exception, he was NOWHERE the rest of the year. LOOK AT THEIR RECORDS SIDE BY SIDE, for crying out loud.
ENAMMELD More than 1 year ago
At this very moment if they were to race who would you bet your life on, for crying out loud make sense. MD23 has views that are realistic, and wonder of wonders, common sense explanations that make sense of the argument presented. WTC is not only the best 3yo of this year but in many years. Just missing running down the best older dirt horse in the world says volumes about how far above the crowd he is.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
It is not the best 3yo today, it is the best 3yo of the YEAR. What have these horses done for racing for the YEAR, not how they are doing at this moment. WTC , yes is very nice and yes the best 3yo right now. But he was no ORB earlier this year. Best 3yo this YEAR is ORB right now by about 5 lengths. WTC in 2nd with GOLDENCENTS 3rd pending his final race of the year. All 3 of these will come done to the wire with any of them worthy of winning best 3yo...
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Loved ORB - had him big time in the Derby (and the Preakness/Belmont), but something happened and now he is a "five week" wonder and little else. If WTC runs well in the Clark against older horses again its a no brainer - 3year old champ.
nick More than 1 year ago
Where is your "5 weeks"? No one will.argue WTC has raced super since the end of Aug, but that is basically only 10 weeks. He pretty much was nowhere from end of Feb to the Travers.Orb raced from Jan to end of Sept and only ran 1 bad race. Wins Grade 2 FOY, G1 FL Derby, G1 Ky Derby, 4 in G1 Preakness, 3 in G1 Belmont., 3 in G1 Travers. Maybe I just don't understand things sometimes.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I was saying same thing prior to BC. NOW the tides have changed.
Kevin Tucker More than 1 year ago
WTC could win the Clark so its not over.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
He doesnt need to. A second or third gives him Eclipse.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
Well, there are no hard and fast guidelines, but anytime Lucas is involved there is bound to be controversy. His horses are hard to handicap. Who could have seen the emergence of this horse as a serious contender for 3 yr. old honors back in June? Who saw Cat Thief as a contender to win the BC Classic? Who saw Thunder Gulch as a contender in the Ky Derby? Who saw Commendable as a Belmont winner? I could go on, but the point is that Lucas turns out enigmatic horses. Right now, Will Take Charge is clearly the best 3 yr. old in the land, just as Orb was after the Ky. Derby. I would call it a dead heat.
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
Hoops!, WTC grew up late, he's the best. I look forward to him next year and another great season of racing in late spring.