Unlike most of the Breeders’ Cup horses, Travers winner Will Take Charge might not be done for the year.
And his final race of 2013 could solidify the vote in his favor for the 3-year-old Eclipse Award.
A narrow runner-up to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Saturday, Will Take Charge is being pointed toward another shot at older horses in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29.
Will Take Charge, who also won the Grade II Rebel and Pennsylvania Derby, already has a strong case for a championship in a division with no clearcut leader.
“I think we’re in good shape anyhow,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas told Churchill Downs officials. “Most people I’ve talked to in the press think he’s champion. If he wins the Clark, it would probably put the icing on the cake.”
Lukas said Will Take Charge will be nominated to the Clark prior to Wednesday’s deadline. His runner-up finish in the Classic left the colt’s busy 2013 campaign with a 4-2-0 record from 10 starts.
As he did in the Travers, Will Take Charge made a late run at Mucho Macho Man in the Classic, but this time fell just inches short of a victory.
“It broke my heart,” Lukas said. “I just stood there and said, ‘How could he get that close and not win it?’ Palace Malice cost us the race. He bore us out real bad, bumped us and pushed us way out on the turn, and we had to recover from that.”
Lukas has some experience pulling out an Eclipse by wheeling back in the Clark after a loss in the Breeders’ Cup.
In 2000, Surfside finished second to stablemate Spain in the BC Distaff, then came back to beat males in the Clark to earn the Eclipse for 3-year-old fillies.
Game On Dude, a disappointing ninth in the BC Classic, also might run in the Clark.
Will Take Charge actually could face some opposition for the championship from a horse who barely did anything in the Triple Crown races.
Goldencents was 17th in the Kentucky Derby and a fifth in the Preakness, and did not run in the Travers.
But he won the BC Dirt Mile and also has the Santa Anita Derby among his collection of Grade I wins, and he is being pointed toward the Grade I Cigar Mile against older horses at Aqueduct on Nov. 30.
Lukas said he won’t run Hopeful winner Strong Mandate, who was third in the BC Juvenile, in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30.
VELAZQUEZ OUT FOR YEAR
Jockey John Velazquez is out for the rest of the year while recuperating from his splenectomy, his agent, Angel Cordero Jr., told the Daily Racing Form.
Velazquez was injured at Santa Anita last Saturday when Sweet Compass broke down on the turn during the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
CAMPO LEAVES NYRA
P.J. Campo resigned as director of racing for the New York Racing Association on Monday to become the vice president of racing for the Stronach Group, the company announced on Wednesday.
Campo will oversee the Stronach racing operations as well as assist the Stronach COO while based at Gulfstream Park, which now races year-round and opens the 2013-14 season on Nov. 30.
The Stronach Group also operates Santa Anita, Laurel Park, Pimlico, Golden Gate Fields and Portland Meadows.
Besides Kentucky Derby winner Orb, two other stars from trainer Shug McGaughey’s barn have been retired.
Point of Entry, one of the best turf runners in the country, was retired after finishing fourth in the BC Turf off a five-month layoff.
Among his five career Grade I wins was last year’s Sword Dancer at Saratoga.
Another Phipps Stable star who was retired is Boisterous, a seven-time graded-stakes winner whose only Grade I victory was this year’s Man o’ War at Belmont Park.
Groupie Doll, the 2012 female sprint champion who won the BC Filly & Mare Sprint for the second year in a row, sold for $3.1 million at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale this week.
She was bought by Mandy Pope, who paid $10 million for Horse of the Year Havre de Grace at the same sale last year.
Other top horses retired this week were Fort Larned, Graydar, Justin Phillip, Fast Bullet and Marketing Mix.
Fort Larned won the BC Classic and Whitney last year and the Stephen Foster this year before wrapping up his career with a fourth in the BC Classic.
“His Classic win was not a one-race performance,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “This year was a real roller-coaster ride, but that’s part of racing. He was a special horse.”
The 4-year-old Graydar had just six career races, but finished with a four-race winning streak that included the Donn Handicap, New Orleans Handicap and Kelso.
Justin Phillip, fifth in the BC Sprint, finally got the first Grade I win of his career in his 29th start, in the A.G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga.
Fast Bullet, winner of the Grade II True North at Belmont, finished with a seventh in the BC Sprint.
The two-time Grade I winner Marketing Mix earned over $2 million and finished her career with a fifth in the BC Filly & Mare Turf.
SMITH WINS SHOEMAKER
Mike Smith won his second straight Bill Shoemaker Award as the most outstanding jockey at last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup.
Smith scored back-to-back victories in the Marathon on London Bridge and in the Juvenile Turf on Outstrip last Friday, and was victorious aboard Mizdirection in the Turf Sprint on Saturday, extending his all-time lead in Breeders’ Cup victories by a jockey to 20.
Combined with a second-place finish on Laugh Track in the Sprint, a third-place finish on Emollient in the Filly & Mare Turf and a fourth-place finish on Royal Delta in the Distaff, Smith’s 37-point total edged Gary Stevens by four points in a 10-5-3-1 scoring system based on the first- through fourth-place finishes in the 14 races.
As it turned out, Stevens, 50, would have won the Shoemaker Award if not for the disqualification of She’s a Tiger from first to second in the Juvenile Fillies.
He’ll have to console himself with the fact that he pulled off the Distaff/Classic double on Beholder and Mucho Macho Man.
Stevens will begin a three-day suspension today for the ride on She’s a Tiger.