12/12/2013 11:03AM

Will Take Charge may begin year in Donn; stud deal 'imminent'

Tom Keyser
Will Take Charge is in light training at Oaklawn Park. His early season objectives may include the Donn and the Santa Anita Handicap.

Will Take Charge is in light training at Oaklawn Park and could make his first start as a 4-year-old in the Feb. 8 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said early Thursday from Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark.

Lukas said owner Willis Horton has kept him abreast of negotiations in a possible partial sale of Will Take Charge to a breeding farm and that a deal appears imminent. Horton and Lukas already have announced the colt definitely will race next year.

Will Take Charge not only is the prohibitive favorite for a 2013 Eclipse Award in the 3-year-old division, but Lukas said he believes the colt also should be included in the discussion for Horse of the Year, for which Wise Dan is considered a big favorite to repeat. Eclipse ballots are due in early January.

“I’d certainly hope [the media] takes a close look at him for Horse of the Year,” said the 78-year-old Hall of Fame trainer. “We took everybody on at their racetrack, on their terms, in their arena. I do know that some people are planning to vote for him.”

Will Take Charge had a sensational second half to 2013, ending with a nose defeat to Mucho Macho Man in the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita and a dramatic head victory over Game On Dude in the Nov. 29 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. The Unbridled’s Song colt earned nearly $3 million on the year.

Will Take Charge is part of a full barn of Lukas horses sent recently from Churchill Downs to Oaklawn, which opens its 2014 meet on Jan. 10.

“We’re tracking him every day now just to keep him from tearing the barn down,” said Lukas. “We’ll map out a program real soon, but right off the top of my head we’re going to look at the Donn, probably with the Santa Anita Handicap after that. There’ll be all the logical races down the road – maybe the Pimlico Special, the Whitney, and of course we’ll make a return to the Breeders’ Cup our year-end goal.”

Lukas said Strong Mandate, his top hope for the 2014 Derby, likely will make his 3-year-old debut in the Feb. 17 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. “I’ll probably run him three times [before the Derby], as opposed to four,” he said.

Lukas, who has been mentioned as a potential Eclipse finalist for outstanding trainer, said he is “very flattered about that kind of talk, but as far as an individual award, I never get too caught up in that. I only trained 34 to 36 horses all year, although we did win some races people really want to win. Boy, I’d like to have the 150 head I had back in the ‘80s.”