Submitted by Gasper Moschera on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM
Will Take Charge tops field for Donn Handicap
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – All eyes will be on Will Take Charge when the recently crowned champion faces 10 foes in his 2014 debut in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Sunday afternoon. According to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, the towering chestnut has thrived since his victory over Game On Dude in the Clark Handicap (G1) 10 weeks ago, and he made a favorable impression in his first gallop over the Gulfstream main track Thursday morning.
“He had a good month and I think he’s ready to go,” Lukas said. “I was a little bit concerned about the long ship (from Oaklawn Park), but it seems like he’s handled it well. He’s training well, he’s more mature and he’s stronger than he was.”
Will Take Charge will carry 123 pounds in the nine-furlong Donn, and will give away from four to nine pounds to the rest of his rivals in the marquee event. The 59th renewal of the Donn will be the 12th and final race on Sunday’s card at Gulfstream. It will kick off The Jockey Club Tour on Fox racing series, which will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.
“I think probably at this time of the year they’re not going to load up too much on any of the horses,” Lukas offered. “I’m not a guy that gets too carried away about the weight. I think he might be a bit sharper because he’s had this little break. I think he could lay a little closer. I’m familiar with some of the horses in here, but we’ll run our race regardless. He handles everything well.”
Jockey Luis Saez, who has partnered Will Take Charge since his breakout performance in the $1-million Travers Stakes (G1) on Aug. 24, will be back in the irons when they break from post two on Sunday.
Owner Willis Horton acquired Will Take Charge for $425,000 as a yearling at Keeneland, and sold a 50-percent interest in the son of Unbridled’s Song to Three Chimneys Farm after his Clark success. In addition to the Travers and the Clark, Will Take Charge captured the $1-million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) in 2013, and also was a whisker shy of Mucho Macho Man in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). He has won six of 15 career starts and bankrolled over $3 million to date.
Next to Will Take Charge in stall three will be Revolutionary, who will carry 119 pounds in the nine-furlong event. Trained by Todd Pletcher for owner WinStar Farm, the dark bay colt captured the $1-million Louisiana Derby (G2) and Withers Stakes (G3) on his way to finishing third in the $2-million Kentucky Derby (G1). He was freshened up following a fifth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1) in June, and emerged victorious in his return to action on Jan. 11 at Gulfstream Park. Revolutionary got off to his typical leisurely start in that one-mile allowance test, but finished up well to defeat Falling Sky by a half-length.
“I think in this particular at a mile-and-an-eighth, it shouldn’t be a big issue,” Pletcher said about Revolutionary’s tendency to get away slowly. “If he doesn’t break well, the track seems to be playing pretty fairly to all kinds of running styles.”
The 4-year-old son of War Pass has recorded a pair of four-furlong drills at Palm Meadows since his comeback effort, earning a bullet for his :47.90 move on January 27 and going in 49 seconds on Feb. 3.
“He worked well and he’s doing good,” Pletcher commented. “He got a race under his belt over the track, so we’re optimistic about him performing well. It’s a tough race, for sure.”
Revolutionary will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
River Seven, among the best of his generation last year in Canada, showed he could transfer that form south of the border as well. The Ontario-bred gelding scored in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 16, then set a track record here at Gulfstream on December 22 when he posted a four-length triumph in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. Nick Gonzalez, who conditions the son of Johannesburg for Tucci Stables, opted to freshen up his charge in preparation for the Donn.
“He’s been doing great,” Gonzalez said. “You always wonder when you’ve got all that time between races, because he’d been going pretty steady all year and he got to the Harlan’s Holiday and ran so well.”
Whether on dirt, turf or synthetic surfaces, River Seven tends to place himself in a handy position, and Gonzalez expects to see that pattern continue in the Donn on Sunday.
“He’s pretty quick in his own right and this track does favor that–you’re not going to be making big monster closing moves on this track,” Gonzalez explained. “This track has always been good for horses on the pace or stalkers that aren’t too far out of it, so I don’t think we’ll be too far out of it at any time.”
River Seven will be ridden once again by Joe Rocco Jr. when he breaks from post five.
Lea had spent much of his career on turf for trainer Al Stall Jr., but was transferred to the barn of Bill Mott following a fifth in the Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on October 26. The Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred showed a new dimension in his first start for Mott when he annexed the one-mile Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream on Jan. 11. The son of First Samurai was forwardly placed throughout in that one-mile affair, and Mott is optimistic that 5-year-old can continue that form in the Donn.
“It didn’t surprise me (that he’d handle the dirt), but I suppose there’s always a little doubt as to whether they’ll do it in top company,” Mott remarked. “This weekend is a new test because it’s nine furlongs; the last time was a flat mile and he seemed to do that very well. I’m just hoping he handles that extra furlong as well. He’s been training well. He’s had a couple of good works.”
Drawn in post eight, Lea will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
Also in the Donn field are Uncaptured (Miguel Mena), Neck ‘n Neck (Julien Leparoux), Romansh (John Velazquez), Viramundo (Paco Lopez), Bourbon Courage (Jose Lezcano), Macho Bull (Magomet Kappushev) and Joshua’s Comprise (Francisco Maysonett).