10/25/2012 3:57PM

Keeneland: Take Charge Indy ends long layoff in Fayette

Barbara D. Livingston
Take Charge Indy, who hasn't raced since the Kentucky Derby, will make his return in the Fayette Stakes.

Where does the time go? It seemed like just a few minutes ago that folks were pumped for the Keeneland fall meet to get started, and now here we are, another one about to go in the record books.

Equine stars such as Wise Dan, Groupie Doll, and In Lingerie have left favorable impressions as the focus now shifts westward to the Breeders’ Cup, although one final chance remains to make a 2012 mark in Lexington, Ky. Pat Byrne is hoping that Take Charge Indy, the Florida Derby winner he trains for Chuck and Maribeth Standford, will step up in the featured Fayette Stakes on the closing-day program Saturday.

“I’ve got him about as good as I can get him,” said Byrne. “He’s coming off a layoff of nearly six months, but he’s fit and he’s sharp. He’s a good horse.”

Byrne knows about top horses, having trained the likes of Favorite Trick and Awesome Again, and he already has taken the liberty of plotting out a tentative course for Take Charge Indy. After the Grade 2, $150,000 Fayette, it will be back home to Louisville to run in the Nov. 23 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, then the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park and the Dubai World Cup at Meydan.

But first things first. Take Charge Indy, with Calvin Borel back to ride, will break from post 5 in the Fayette, a 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race that drew 11 3-year-olds and upward and will anchor the fall finale as the ninth of 10 races. Take Charge Indy has returned after having a tiny chip removed from a front ankle following his 19th-place finish in the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

“Everything has gone perfectly, so the ankle deal is a non-factor,” said Byrne. “I just want a nice, solid race from the colt. I want him to get back on track.”

Starting just to the inside of Take Charge Indy is perhaps his chief threat, Newsdad, a 4-year-old who has kept classy company all year and now goes turf-to-Poly for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

“He’s trained extremely well for us the last few weeks and looks fantastic, so we’re going in with high expectations,” said Mott assistant Kenny McCarthy.

Julien Leparoux, who will wrap up his ninth Keeneland riding title Saturday, has the mount on Newsdad, who holds the Keeneland Poly record of 2:00.61 at the infrequently run distance of 1 1/4 miles.

Other major considerations in this renewal of the Fayette include Guys Reward (post 1, Corey Lanerie), who exits rugged grass stakes at Saratoga; Eye of the Leopard (post 10, Joe Rocco Jr.), a $900,000-plus earner making his first start since being privately purchased by the Bluegrass Hall LLC of Brad Kelley; and Salto (post 6, Rosie Napravnik) and Middie (post 8, Jon Court), both eye-catching allowance winners on the Poly earlier in this 17-day meet.

This is the 54th running of the Fayette, which remains the only Keeneland stakes won three times by a horse, that being Royal Harmony (1969-71) for the late P.B. Devereux Sr. The last three Fayette winners have all been highly accomplished: Blame (2009), Successful Dan (2010), and Wise Dan (2011).

Three allowances directly precede the Fayette on a card that starts at 1:05 p.m. Eastern, notably a $57,000 Polytrack event (race 7) at the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet. A field of nine older horses includes Keeneland graded winners Hoofit, Lonesome Street, and Noble’s Promise.

Live action on the Kentucky circuit picks right back up Sunday with the start of the 21-day fall meet at Churchill.