09/21/2013 7:52PM

Pennsylvania Derby: Will Take Charge finishes strong; Breeders' Cup Classic next

Barbara D. Livingston
Will Take Charge, with Luis Saez up, wins the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby by 2 1/4 lengths.

BENSALEM, Pa. – The much ballyhooed rematch between Travers 1-2 finishers Will Take Charge and Moreno turned into a one-sided affair Saturday at Parx Racing as Will Take Charge rallied along the inside under Luis Saez and drew off to a decisive 2 1/4-length victory over Moreno in the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.

Moreno, who was unable to secure an easy lead like he did in the Travers, held second by a neck over Battier. He was followed in the order of finish by Transparent, Fury Kapcori, Romansh, Speak Logistics, and Java’s War.

Will Take Charge added the Pennsylvania Derby to victories in the Grade 1 Travers and Grade 2 Rebel and listed Smarty Jones. Despite three double-digit-length defeats in the Triple Crown series, trainer D. Wayne Lukas believes Will Take Charge is in the thick of the race for 3-year-old divisional honors heading into the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.

“I’m not blown away here to think that we’re going to overwhelm anything, but I do think we’re very much in the picture, and it might get down to head-to-head competition,” Lukas said.

The Pennsylvania Derby was the first head-to-head meeting between Will Take Charge and Moreno since Will Take Charge nipped Moreno by a nose in the Travers at Saratoga.

A week after the race, the connections of Moreno – trainer Eric Guillot and owner Michael Moreno – filed a formal complaint with the New York State Gaming Commission, alleging that Saez used an electrical device, known as a battery, on Will Take Charge during the running of the race. The accusations are still being investigated by the commission with assistance from the New York State Police.

Lukas said he never gave much thought to the accusations, but realized they created a bit of a firestorm.

“When you make irresponsible comments like that, they’re interpreted a gillion ways,” Lukas said. “The facts are there’s nothing there, and time will show that. New York is eventually going to get it done – they do everything quite slowly. I put it aside right away.”

Neither Guillot nor Moreno were at Parx on Saturday.

Lukas has been focused on getting Will Take Charge to improve, and the son of Unbridled’s Song definitely polished off the Pennsylvania Derby most impressively.

Breaking a little awkwardly from the outside post, Will Take Charge settled into fifth position while Moreno, who broke a step slow, fought for the early lead with Fury Kapcori, the two dueling through a half-mile in 46.74 seconds.

Saez advanced Will Take Charge three wide around the far turn, and though Lukas thought Saez would be better served by coming down the center of the track, Saez dove his horse to the rail, where he finished like a freight train to get the win.

Will Take Charge, owned by Willis Horton, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.28 and returned $6.60 as the favorite.

“Maturity is really starting to take a hold now,” Lukas said.” I think we’ve turned the corner on a big, gangly horse who is finding where his feet are. He’s getting that explosive kick we want to see. I’d be very surprised if the best isn’t in front of him.”

Before being whisked away by his agent to catch a flight to Charles Town, where he was to ride Saturday night, Saez simply said, “He ran so well, very good, I’m so happy.”

Jose Ortiz, the rider of Moreno, said his horse didn’t break well and he had to “push him to put him in front. We went really fast, I knew it was going to be tough. He kept trying hard, he was just waiting for the horses again. If he didn’t wait for the horses, maybe he could have won the race.”

Lukas said Will Take Charge was to ship home Sunday morning and would train at Churchill Downs before shipping to California five or six days before the Classic.