02/07/2014 3:09PM

Gulfstream Park: Will Take Charge faces no easy task in Donn Handicap

Tom Keyser
Revolutionary (above) finished ahead of Will Take Charge twice last year and has the advantage of a good recent race over the track heading into Sunday's Donn Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – A pair of Eclipse Award winners, one at the end of her brilliant career, the other in the prime of his, will take center stage Sunday at Gulfstream Park, where both Groupie Doll and Will Take Charge will make their first start since being named division champions three weeks ago. 

Groupie Doll, a two-time Eclipse winner, will compete for the final time as the prohibitive favorite in the $200,000 Hurricane Bertie. Will Take Charge, last year’s 3-year-old champion who finished a nose behind Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, launches his 2014 campaign as the highweight and favorite in the $500,000 Donn Handicap. The Donn is one of two Grade 1 races to be decided here Sunday along with the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

[Donn Handicap: Get PPs, watch Sunday's card live]

Both the Donn and Gulfstream Park handicaps will be featured on the inaugural Jockey Club Live on the Fox racing series program, to be broadcast Sunday on Fox Sports 1 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

The 1 1/8-mile Donn attracted a field of 11 older horses, led by Will Take Charge, who has not raced since closing out his 3-year-old season with a head decision over Game on Dude in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. Will Take Charge, who is owned by Willis D. Horton and Three Chimneys Farm LLC, concluded the year with 5 victories in 11 starts. He captured the Grade 1 Travers, Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, and Grade 2 Rebel. The Breeders’ Cup Classic was his only loss in four tries since trainer D. Wayne Lukas first teamed him up with jockey Luis Saez for the Travers.

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

Will Take Charge shipped in to Gulfstream from his Oaklawn Park base.

“He had a good month and I think he’s ready to go,” Lukas said. “I was a little bit concerned about the long ship, but it seems like he’s handled it well. He’s training well, he’s more mature, and he’s stronger than he was.”

Will Take Charge will carry high weight of 123 pounds in the Donn, conceding from three to 10 pounds to his 10 rivals.

“I’m not the type of guy that gets too carried away about the weight,” said Lukas. “I think he might be a bit sharper because he’s had this little break. I think he could lay a little closer. I’m familiar with some of the horses in here, but we’ll run our race regardless. He handles everything well.”

Conventional handicapping wisdom says that Will Take Charge could be vulnerable coming off a 10-week layoff against a group that includes Revolutionary, River Seven, and Lea, all of whom have already won during the meet.

Revolutionary returned from a seven-month layoff to win a one-mile third-level optional $100,000 claiming race by a half-length on Jan. 11. Revolutionary finished well in front of Will Take Charge in their two meetings during last year’s Triple Crown series when third in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Belmont Stakes.

“I’m really pleased with the way he ran in his comeback race and glad he got a race over the track,” said Todd Pletcher, Revolutionary’s six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer. “He seemed to like it and he’s trained well since then. Any time you sign up for a Grade 1 you anticipate it’s going to be a tough race, and with Will Take Charge here, it’s certainly getting the season started in a big way. But in Revolutionary you’re talking about a horse who won the Louisiana Derby, was third in the Kentucky Derby, and had a good comeback race.”
The versatile River Seven has never been better and will make his Grade 1 debut riding a three-race win streak that includes a victory on turf in the Grade 3 Commonwealth and a track-record-setting performance here on dirt in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes.

River Seven hasn’t raced since that four-length victory in the Dec. 22 Harlan’s Holiday.

“It’s always a concern for me having 47 days in between races,” said Nick Gonzalez, who trains River Seven for the Tucci Stables. “And you also worry he might have peaked and gone over the top after he ran that tremendous race in the Harlan’s Holiday.”

Gonzalez said jockey Joe Rocco Jr. told him after the Harlan’s Holiday “that when he pushed the button over there at the three-eighths pole, he just couldn’t believe how he took off, and also said he had another gear or two left if he’d needed it.”

“He’s doing great, training well, and I can’t wait to get him over there,” Gonzalez said.

Like River Seven, Lea had been most effective on turf and synthetic surfaces before earning his ticket into the Donn with a convincing 3 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope going a mile on the main track here last month. The start was the first for Lea since being transferred to trainer Bill Mott’s barn late last season.

“It didn’t surprise me that he handled dirt, but there’s always a question of whether they’ll do it in top company,” said Mott. “This race is a new test because it’s nine furlongs instead of a mile, and I’m just hoping he handles that extra furlong well.”

Saez rode Lea in the Hal’s Hope, but Joel Rosario has the riding assignment on Sunday.

Completing the field are Bourbon Courage, who finished third as the favorite in the Hal’s Hope, multiple graded stakes winners Neck n Neck and Uncaptured, Romansh, Viramundo, Macho Bull, and Joshua’s Comprise.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fixed race outcomes are plentiful at gulfstream today. Come on everybody..give them your money! Its an honest game. Really uh huh.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Need i say more... After that gulfstream turf handicap. Post a big exacta and trifecta number on the board, everybody says "wow", and the track keeps the haul of $. Pretty slick huh. This aint about takeout. Its about the fix.
G More than 1 year ago
Who ever wins will be a fair price and the show pool is going to get blown up Just like in the San Antonio when Game On Dude didn't hit the board. Will Take Charge finishes out the money today, track is playing super fast and he will never close into the pace with the way it is playing. Another bombs away day shaping up for front runners at GP today!
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Amazing then, how Groupie Doll misses the break, spots the field about 12lengths, and powers home clear to win by open lengths
G More than 1 year ago
And Groupie Doll beat an absolute group of un talented horss. WTC has missd training and is such a deep closer that gets going slower than Groupie Doll can get started moving will be back back the pack because he will need at least this race. By all means though bet all you wish on WTC. My opinion is mine!
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I don't care if they were Clydsdales she was running against, it was a pleasure watching this great mare.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
I don't get the hype around Rev. River Seven will blow all their doors off. Including Mr.Will.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
River Seven looks like a nice horse, I hope you get at least 6-1 or better. Revolutionary, I can't remember if he had any ailments, but I like the fact he was given all that time off after the Belmont, came back as a 4yo and in a 100opN and runs a pretty good race, actually matching his top, and should move forward today, if he's 5-1 or better, I'll include him. Lea, interesting, WTC, could be best of all, has never been more than 5 lengths behind in any of his wins, can't toss completely, but it is a full field, racing luck will play a big part. Romansh, Tom has him developing just like his dad, Bernardini..Good luck to all..
Hail No More than 1 year ago
PS, the GP Turf Hand is the race I want to see JRoccoJr win :)
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Excited to see WTC, but more so to see Groupie Doll, "Going out in Glory" at GP, one of the toughest mares in a while.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
WTC will be top 4yr old hands down. Im excited to see his first start as 4yr.
luanacastrogome More than 1 year ago
Anil More than 1 year ago
Romansh....nuff said
Tyler Mathis More than 1 year ago
Seriously, can someone explain to me how a horse like Joshua's Compromise rates to be in this race? His career is a mismanaged disaster and he is nowhere near this class level.
G More than 1 year ago
He is a horse, thats all it takes.
HAY BUSTER More than 1 year ago
Bourbon Courage is always tough and I think he might surprise here today at a decent price.
Jenna Renee More than 1 year ago
Revolutionary is ready and will produce the potential he displayed as a 3yo. He was flattered by the performance of Falling Sky who he beat in his comeback race. 5-1 is a steal if you can get that price