SARATOGA SPRINGS Will Take Charge keeps showing up at all the big races.
On Saturday, he finally showed up in the winner's circle.
One of three horses to have run in all three Triple Crown races -- with nothing to show for it -- Will Take Charge gradually wore down front-runner Moreno and passed the late-running Orb to win the 144th Travers Stakes before 47,597 at Saratoga Race Course today.
"At this time of the year when horses have had hard campaigns, these races are special," trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. "There has never been a bad Travers. But they don't put up a million bucks on a Grade I and just hand it to you. You better get on your belly and have a horse ready, or you're not going to win one of these."
Will Take Charge went off at odds of 9-1 against the likes of Kentucky Derby winner Orb and the powerhouse duo of Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice and Haskell winner Verrazano.
Ridden by Luis Saez, Will Take Charge steadily made his move from the five-sixteenths pole to beat 31-1 Moreno by a nose. In the Jim Dandy, Will Take Charge finished a length behind Palace Malice, as Moreno was third.
"You can make a case for five or six horses in here that would be deserving; we felt ours was one of them," Lukas said.
Verrazano went off the 3-2 favorite and finished seventh, and Palace Malice got up for fourth after a slow break out of the gate.
"I thought Verrazano got a beautiful trip," Pletcher said. "He got exactly where we wanted to be. The only difference was we thought he'd be stalking Palace Malice, who, Mike [Smith] said, missed the break. He slipped behind, dropped way back, not his characteristic spot. Mike thought he was much the best, but his break killed him."
Capo Bastone upset the seven-furlong Grade I $500,000 King's Bishop under Irad Ortiz Jr., sitting back in the pack until the three-eighths pole and then firing past nine others, including leader Mentor Cane, to win by two lengths. The decision to run the 28-1 shot came after he breezed well in company with Travers favorite Verrazano.
“I was fired up to see him at the eighth pole,” Pletcher said. “I said, 'Oh, we've got a chance,' you know? And it's not surprising to us, based on the strength of his breeze with Verrazano on Sunday."
In the Grade I $500,000 Test, Sweet Lulu held off the early challenge of Baby J and the late try by Wildcat Lily to win her first Grade I, her first stakes of any kind, first seven-furlong race and her first race on conventional dirt.
“She's done everything that we've asked her to do,” winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “I didn't know if I should ship her this soon and come back here and try this, but she was doing so well and showing speed, and this is a Grade I and a very important race for pedigree, so we decided to try it.”