Nov. 27, 2013
Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge, winner of Oaklawn’s Smarty Jones and Rebel Stakes earlier this year, could wrap up the Eclipse Award as Champion 3-year-old male with a victory Friday in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. The Unbridled’s Song colt, trained by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, drew post seven of nine for the 1 1/8 race where among his eight rivals is top older horse Game On Dude.
Will Take Charge did not have any luck competing in all three Triple Crown races, but by late summer he was quickly throwing his name in the ring for year-end honors. He first rebounded from those poor efforts to finish second in the Jim Dandy Stakes behind Belmont winner Palace Malice and then defeated both the Belmont winner and Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes. That breakout performance was followed by a win in the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby and most recently, he narrowly lost the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic when second by a nose to Mucho Macho Man.
“I think he’s already sealed (the Champion 3-Year-Old Male award),” Lukas said. “I would rather take the position that the Clark is a significant race with Grade I status and a nice purse, and an opportunity to showcase our horse again. I almost wish there was more to the season, because he is good right now. It’s a prestigious race in many ways. It’s a Grade I and if we could get another Grade I against older competition around two turns, I think it would be significant.”
Like Will Take Charge, Game On Dude could wrap up an Eclipse Award for champion older male with a victory in the Clark. The Bob Baffert-trained gelding will be making his first start at Churchill since finishing second in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic and will be looking to make amends for poor showings in the last two Classics where he was the favorite both times. In between the 2012 edition and this year’s race, he was undefeated in six starts.
Should the two favorites have a bad day, Zayat Stable’s Prayer for Relief could be a likely upsetter. He is trained by Oaklawn’s five-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by 2013 leading rider Ricardo Santana Jr., who has been aboard for his last three races, including wins in both the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows and Governor’s Cup at Remington Park.
Oaklawn will be open for simulcasting throughout the entire Thanksgiving holiday. For our complete simulcast schedule, click here. For complete Clark Handicap entries, click here.