02/09/2014 7:28PM

Gulfstream Park: Lea beats Will Take Charge in Donn Handicap

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Tom Keyser
Lea (right) and jockey Joel Rosario score by 1 1/2 lengths over Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Sunday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Bill Mott’s decision to give Lea one more opportunity against top-caliber competition on dirt paid big dividends Sunday, when the latest rising star in the handicap division set a track record en route to a 1 1/2-length victory over Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

Lea was transferred to Mott’s barn by his owners Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm late last fall, and his original inclination was to point the son of First Samurai to one of the early turf races on the 2014 Gulfstream stakes schedule. But after taking a closer look at Lea’s main-track form, Mott decided to give him one more shot on dirt early in the year to help formulate plans for the remainder of the season.

Lea, a Grade 3 winner on turf in 2013, responded by launching his campaign with an impressive 3 1/4-length victory going a mile under jockey Luis Saez in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope. The performance was convincing enough to earn Lea a spot in the Donn.

With jockey Joel Rosario substituting for Saez, who kept his regular seat aboard Will Take Charge on Sunday, Lea stalked the surprise early leader, Uncaptured, through the opening six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile Donn. Lea edged to command near the three-eighths pole, opened a commanding advantage upon settling into the stretch, then remained clear to the wire while completing the distance over a fast track in 1:46.86. The final time eclipsed the old standard of 1:47.49 established by Quality Road four years earlier.

Will Take Charge, making his first start since capturing the Grade 1 Clark Handicap in his 3-year-old finale and his first since being named an Eclipse Award winner three weeks earlier, ran a big race in defeat. Will Take Charge settled in midpack during the early stages, advanced wide leaving the backstretch, continued on willingly down the lane, but could not reach the winner while easily second-best.

Viramundo, a 45-1 outsider, finished another 9 1/4 lengths back in third.

[Clocker Reports: Get Mike Welsch’s clocker reports from Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows]

Lea paid $13.

“The horse that was on the lead wasn’t the one I was counting on being on the lead,” Mott said. “I thought it could be Romansh or River Seven, but it turned out the same type of trip we thought we might be able to get. He’s been the distance and won at the distance on the turf, but it’s always a different challenge when you move them to the dirt. I felt he was capable, but, of course, the competition was stiff. We were in against the champion, and we were good enough to beat him today.”

Mott said it was too early to consider when or where Lea might run next, although he did all but rule out the Dubai World Cup as one of his options.

“I wouldn’t do anything with him for the next month or so,” Mott said. “It’s a long year, and the big races are at the end of the year, and there’s a lot of good racing in between. I think right now, I’d like to point him to the Whitney at Saratoga, and we’ll see what happens.”

D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Will Take Charge, saluted the winner after the race.

“They had to set a new track record to beat us, so that’s all you need to know,” Lukas said. “We got blocked for a bit and couldn’t get out, so we couldn’t move as quickly as we wanted to. We also didn’t have a race over the track, which turned out to be a disadvantage.”

Jordan More than 1 year ago
Cigar is arguably the best North American racehorse since 1980, so comparing Lea to him is way premature and thus a little over the top. But how about another Mott horse from that era, Geri? Like Lea, Geri was a graded stakes horse on turf at middle distances, who became a grade 1 winner on dirt. 10 furlongs was a little far for Geri, but he did run a very good 2nd at that distance in the Hollywood Gold Cup behind a very serious horse in Siphon.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
You are probably correct, but as Perl aptly pointed out, you can't help noticing the comparisons, and we never know when the next great "streak" could start, I'll be rooting(maybe not betting) for Lea :)
kevin killeen More than 1 year ago
Weak,weak ride !!!!!I If he stays on the rail he wins by a couple !!!! With his new rider, he'll be undefeated this year. WATCH THE RACE IN SLOOO MOO ------LEA gets the rider back ???
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
I bet Lea and made a nice profit for the day, but I don't think Lea beats WTC at SA, Churchill or Belmont. One of the reasons I picked Lea was Gulfstream Parks speed favoring merry go round surface. The time is probably off as well. Its been off at different times during races. Inaccurate 1/4 mile times. Regardless Lea ran lights out. Can't wait for WTC to run at Belmont on those giant sweeping turns.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
And 10 furlongs is going to play into WTC's strengths and work against many of the other top open horses.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
I haven't seen the Donn replay till just now. The separation between 2nd and 3rd was quite a bit. IMO , it just shows how Gulfstreams main track plays. Like if you like it you like it, if not, you try and give it what you got. Bill Mott, you got it ! Even though your horse Lea won pretty much geared down with his ears posing for the photo and Joel smiling, next time, if WTC is in same gate, Lea will run to the wire and I would say WTC with a clean trip, makes it 1 for WTC and 1 for Lea. I wish after this Donn Handicap, these 2 horses gives us another rivalry for the books..........
Ron Luciano More than 1 year ago
Sorry, but I think D.Wayne should have been a bit more complementary to the superior effort of a solid up and coming and a legitimate rival to WTC- all he did was make excuses for his charge because he thought the Donn was going to be a walk over. Mott's got a runner. Ron Luciano
Ricky Williams More than 1 year ago
When they place seven more pounds on him what then.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
That would be like you carrying 9oz and running against somebody you already defeated. 7lbs is nothing when dealing with a 1,000lb animal. Weight is the most overrated aspect of handicapping. Its not till you get up to 12lbs on seasoned stakes horses that it really makes a difference.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
I agree weight is overrated, but I think you went a little too far the other way. I think 5 lbs can affect an outcome by a half to full length. By 10 lbs, weight can make a very real difference. A few lengths can separate being a winner and running out of the money. The one thing critics overlooked about Game on Dude's 2013 is that while he didn't face great fields, he at least was conceding some real weight.
denali1 More than 1 year ago
WTC run a good race alot of the others had a race over this surface. Take nothing away from Lea very impressive performance but WTC wasen't able to get into 5th gear nothing to be nervous about. It was his first race back since November he will be back in the winners circle.
Wesley Wright More than 1 year ago
Just goes to show you how much luck plays in these races. I did not like WTC inside draw but did not think he would get bogged down on the rails. Unlucky loss for the 3YO Champion. He is still improving, lest hope he stays healthy. If he does he will win many more races in 2014.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Lea did run a hell of a race, still, the most impressive two turn 1 1/8 race I've seen was performed by Spend a Buck
denali1 More than 1 year ago
Damn your going back to 1982.....you haven't seen one since then where you been hiding?
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Actually 1985 :) But he was a super impressive horse..
Tom Hickey More than 1 year ago
That was a great run from Lea, but possible even a more impressive performance from WTC. Off a break, speed favouring track, short stretch and still only 1.5 back. Some great competition coming down the road in the older horse divisions.
John Murray More than 1 year ago
Lucas admits he was short, it's his fault, why doesn't he just admit it, instead of hiding behind the old school ' it took a record blah blah'
Ian Phillips More than 1 year ago
When they put 126 lbs on him and the rest and he wins against will take charge then ill be impressed. He was getting 6 lbs from wtc.
Peter Siipola More than 1 year ago
like that was his fault?----he was ready to roll
Jordan More than 1 year ago
I agree, but it's not like people made a big deal about WTC receiving 3 lbs from Game on Dude in the Clark, a race decided by a photo. And WTC did get weight from MMM in the BC Classic.