LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Will Take Charge bounced back Saturday from his loss in the Breeders Cup to win the Grade 1, $550,700 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Saturday.
Just 27 days ago, the horse trained by D. Wayne Lukas lost by a nose in the Classic to Mucho Macho Man on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. This time, it was jockey Luis Saez and the 3-year-old son of Unbridled's Song - the second betting choice - who scored the narrow victory, winning by a head over favorite Game on Dude and jockey Mike Smith.
Our Double Play and Francisco Torres took the early lead with Game on Dude tracking in second. Game on Dude, the Bob Baffert trainee who was coming off a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic, took the lead in mid-stretch and appeared to be in control.
That's when Will Take Charge moved from his stalking spot mid-pack and powered down the lane to catch the 6-year-old gelding just before the wire.
''When he came into the stretch, my horse had to change leads, so that's what I tried to (get him) do,'' Saez said. ''When he changed, he was flying, so I knew I was going to beat him.''
Will Take Charge paid $6.80, 3.00 and 2.60. Game on Dude paid $3.40 and 2.60 and Easter Gift, with Joel Roasrio aboard, paid $5.20.
Owned by Willis D. Horton, Will Take Charge covered the 1 1/8-miles in 1:49.39. Will Take Charge increased his record to six wins in 15 starts with earnings of $3,055,148.
The flashy chestnut with the big white blaze blossomed after disappointing efforts on the Triple Crown trail. He was a troubled eighth over the sloppy track in the Kentucky Derby, a lackluster seventh in the Preakness Stakes and a dismal 10th in the Belmont Stakes.
Lukas didn't give up. He removed the blinkers the colt had worn in his previous nine races, and he appeared rejuvenated as he ran second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in July.
The colt went on to post victories in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes and the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.
''I thought maybe it was his best race of the year, even though the Breeders' Cup was sensational,'' Lukas said. ''On this particular surface, going an eighth of a mile shorter, I think he showed his versatility pretty good today.
''He's a classy horse and he's gotten the idea of getting up (in time). He seems to know where the wire is.''
With the win, Will Take Charge has put himself in the lead for the 3-year-old male Eclipse Award.
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