05/15/2013 4:55PM

Preakness Stakes: Horton barn out in force with Will Take Charge, Laurie’s Rocket

Barbara D. Livingston
Will Take Charge was forced to check at a key point in the Kentucky Derby.

BALTIMORE – Will Horton will pretty much be running his entire stable at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, when Will Take Charge starts in the Grade 1, $1 million Preakness Stakes and Laurie’s Rocket goes in the Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap. Together, the horses he owns have won a combined 5 of 11 starts this year, for earnings of $636,185. Among their wins have been three stakes races, including the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel.

[2013 PREAKNESS STAKES: Latest news, video, and more]

“This is the best year I’ve had in racing, and having good horses,” Horton said. “I used to, a long time ago, have a lot of claiming horses. It makes a lot of difference when you win graded stakes races.”

Horton, a 73-year-old resident of Marshall, Ark., which is about 100 miles north of Little Rock, has only recently placed one other horse in training, an unraced 2-year-old. His runners are based at Churchill Downs with Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Will Take Charge was eighth in the Kentucky Derby in his last start May 4. The race was his first out in seven weeks, following his head win over Oxbow in the Rebel run at Horton’s hometown track of Oaklawn Park on March 16.

“In the Rebel, he showed he was still growing up, showed he had a big heart and that he has a long stride,” Horton said. “We knew he could go a route of ground. The reason we took time off after the Rebel was that we wanted him to be fresh and have a fresh horse going into the Triple Crown races. That’s kind of the story on that. Of course, in the Kentucky Derby, we got the worst trip of any horse in the race. He got knocked around, or he would have been right there.”

Will Take Charge raced in 10th early in the Kentucky Derby, moved up, and was forced to check at a key point in the race.

“If you look at the aerial view of the NBC telecast, you will probably make a case for him being first or second,” Lukas said. “It’s amazing. He was moving beautifully, was moving with Orb, runs into a horse that shuts down.”

Lukas said that with a horse as large as Will Take Charge, who stands 17 hands, “you’re not able to shut down and regroup. He ran an unbelievably good race in the Derby.”

Horton purchased Will Take Charge for $425,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling auction. He was seeking a horse for the classics and liked what he saw in the son of Unbridled’s Song and the multiple Grade 1-winning mare Take Charge Lady.

“Overall, he was a great-looking horse,” Horton said. “He was a big horse for his age, so he just hit my eye, something I’ve been looking for a long time. And they’re hard to come by.”

Horton was part of a partnership that won the Kentucky Oaks in 2006 with Lemons Forever. Other top horses he has had include Partner’s Hero, who was a Grade 2-winning sprinter. Laurie’s Rocket was a three-time winner this winter at Oaklawn, among his victories the $73,000 Hot Springs. He enters the Maryland Sprint off a third-place finish to Delaunay in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs.

Horton is a stockholder in D.R. Horton Custom Homes, a business his family built that is now publicly traded. Will Take Charge will be his first starter in the Preakness.