01/31/2015 6:44PM

Take Charge Brandi scores narrow victory in Martha Washington

Coady Photography
Take Charge Brandi wins the Martha Washington Stakes by a head Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Take Charge Brandi showed the grit that made her a champion Saturday, when she fought for a head win over Sarah Sis in the $100,000 Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park. It was Take Charge Brandi’s fourth straight stakes win and her first start since being voted outstanding 2-year-old filly of 2014. Take Charge Brandi closed out her championship season last year with wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess, and the Grade 1 Starlet in her finale Dec. 13.

On Saturday, Take Charge Brandi ($2.80) broke sharply in the Martha Washington and moved to the lead with ease. She was up by a length through an opening quarter in 23.71 seconds and continued to maintain her advantage through a half-mile in 48.10 and six furlongs in 1:13.44. In the stretch, Take Charge Brandi withstood a bid from Sarah Sis, who darted to her inside as the leader drifted, then put up a fight to the wire. But Take Charge Brandi had more, said Jon Court, who was aboard the champion for Willis Horton and trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

“I did hear [Sarah Sis] when she was making her approach, but Take Charge Brandi actually engaged again to win by a head,” said Court.

Take Charge Brandi covered the mile on a fast track in 1:39.66. The race ended at the sixteenth pole, as with all races at the distance at Oaklawn.

Horton said Take Charge Brandi’s ultimate goal is the Kentucky Oaks. He said her next start would come at her base of Oaklawn in the Grade 3, $150,000 Honeybee on March 7. The race is the final stepping stone to the track’s Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy on April 4.

With the win, Take Charge Brandi earned 10 preference points for the Kentucky Oaks by virtue of her win. Sarah Sis picked up four points for second, while Indian Annie, who finished eight lengths back in third, earned two points. Sweet Corinna, who was fourth, earned a point.

Take Charge Brandi now has won 5 of 9 career starts, with the first-place check of $60,000 Saturday lifting her earnings to $1,680,126. She is a daughter of Giant’s Causeway, and she was bred in Kentucky by Charming Syndicate. Take Charge Brandi is out of the mare Charming, who is a half-sister to Will Take Charge, who was champion 3-year-old for Horton.

** The estimated attendance Saturday at Oaklawn was 11,000. Handle on the nine-race program from all sources was $4,656,099.