Before Will Take Charge’s last start, you have to go all the way back to last year’s Belmont Stakes to find the previous clunker on his resumé.
Sandwiched between those races was not only a victory in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, but a 2013 campaign that led to a championship and the beginning of a 2014 campaign that holds even more promise for the son of Unbridled’s Song.
He’ll try to get back on track as the second choice on the morning line in the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs tonight on a card that features three other graded stakes.
Sixth in the Alysheba last time out, Will Take Charge was 4-3-0 from seven starts, including a second to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, since finishing 10th in last year’s Belmont.
Ridden by Gary Stevens as the 3-5 post-time favorite, he mysteriously never produced his usual late kick in the Alysheba and was sixth to Moonshine Mullin in a race that featured another Travers winner — Golden Ticket — who was second.
“I think we’ll just forget it happened and go on to the next one,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas told the Churchill press office. “I think we’re sitting right on a big one, hopefully. He’s had a really good month.”
On a “Downs After Dark” card with first post of 6 p.m., the Stephen Foster isn’t scheduled to go off until 9:39.
The 2-1 favorite in the nine-horse field is Revolutionary, who is coming off a win in the Pimlico Special.
Three of the top four from the Alysheba, run a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the nine-furlong Stephen Foster, are back today — Moonshine Mullin, Golden Ticket and Mylute.
Departing could also be a factor.
Sixth in the Preakness last year, he’s been out of the money just one other time in 10 career starts, including an impressive allowance win at Churchill last time out in April, his 2014 debut.
Revolutionary took the second half of 2013 off after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Belmont.
“With the timing of the Belmont being run in June, if you give a horse a meaningful vacation of 45-60 days, it basically eliminates any big-race options for the rest of the year,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “So we just felt like he needed a break and giving it to him then would allow him to come back and compete as a 4-year-old, and it’s worked out pretty well.”
This year, Revolutionary has raced four times and appears to have built some momentum since a seventh in the Donn Handicap. He was second to Will Take Charge in the Oaklawn Handicap before winning the Pimlico Special.
In a stunning display of how quickly things can turn for the worst for a thoroughbred, Intense Holiday went from being the best runner for the Starlight Racing stable a few weeks ago to being euthanized on Thursday.
The Grade II Risen Star winner, 12th in the Kentucky Derby and training forwardly for the Belmont Stakes, suffered a condylar fracture in late May and was retired before he really got a chance to mature and show how good he could be.
Expected to recover and enjoy a successul career in the breeding shed, he came down with the dreaded disease laminitis in both front hooves, instead, and was put down when treatment options were exhausted.
“We kid ourselves that we’re going to get a miracle, but you know it wasn’t meant to be,” said Starlight co-managing partner Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg. “You look at Barbaro. They tried everything, threw a ton of money at him, and nothing worked.
“This is the worst blow you can have, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a good horse or bad horse, slow horse or fast horse. We’re not just in it to win, we’re in it for the love of the horse and their well-being. He never got a chance to show his true potential.”
HERE AND THERE
Two-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder is out of commission while recovering from a cut on her left hind pastern suffered in the Ogden Phipps on Belmont Day.
In a matchup of the top three older fillies and mares in North America, Beholder was fourth, as Close Hatches won and Princess of Sylmar was second by a head.
Trainer Richard Mandella told The Blood-Horse that Beholder will be out until the fall and would be questionable to make the Del Mar meet. . . .
Prominent owner-breeder Eugene Melnyk announced this week that he is retiring from racing and will disperse his stock.
His top horses included Travers winner Flower Alley and champion sprinter Speightstown. . . .
Commendable, winner of the 2000 Belmont, died due to complications of colic this week while standing at stud in South Korea.