By Dick Downey
Take Charge led a carousel of sorts to victory in the Grade I Florida Derby. Meanwhile, heavily favored Union Rags settled for third after a less than ideal trip.
Take Charge Indy was ridden by Calvin Borel, who flew in from Arkansas to take the mount. Borel guided Take Charge Indy through fractions of :23.60, :47.71, 1:12.09 and 1:35.96 en route to a final time of 1:48.79.
Reveron, who was second at each call, finished second. Neck 'n Neck, who was third most of the way, backed out of it in the stretch. And El Padrino, fourth at the first three calls and fifth at the fourth one, finished fourth.
The only horse to make up any ground was the 2-5 favorite, Union Rags. But he had trouble finding room and was taken to the rail by Julien Leparoux in upper stretch. By the time he mounted a rally, it was too late.
Take Charge Indy defeated Reveron by a length, followed a neck by Union Rags, who was 3 1/2 lengths back with a furlong left in the race. They were followed across the finish line by El Padrino, Neck 'n Neck, Fort Loudon, News Pending and Z Camelot. Bartolome was scratched.
Perhaps the trouble began in the paddock. Union Rags dislodged his right hind shoe, and it had to be reattached. However, onlookers said the process took a short time and didn't seem to faze Union Rags.
Take Charge Indy caught a break when News Pending, who ran forwardly in the Grade II Fountain of Youth, broke poorly and ran to the first turn in last place. Take Charge Indy ran an uncontested lead until the field turned for home. At that point, Reveron momentarily passed him, but Take Charge Indy was having none of that and led by a length with a furlong left in the race.
El Padrino ran slightly ahead of Union Rags most of the race but didn't have the late punch he needed in the stretch. He was beaten -- lengths by the winner.
The million-dollar purse added $600,000 to Take Charge Indy's bankroll; he now has a total of $698,400 graded stakes earnings. Reveron picked up $200,000 to push his graded earnings total to $220,000. Union Rags made $100,000 and now has $1,170,000 in graded money. El Padrino, who had $200,000 graded money going in, now has $250,000.
Sent off at 7-1 odds, the winner returned $17.40, $9.00 and $3.60 to his supporters.
Trainer Patrick Byrne said he'd ship Take Charge Indy to Churchill Downs April 11 and train up to the Kentucky Derby there.
Bred in Kentucky by Eaton Sales, Take Charge Indy is owned by Chuck and Maribeth Sandford. By A.P. Indy, he's out of Take Charge Lady, by Dehere. Take Charge Indy was a private purchase. He was an $80,000 RNA at the Keeneland September 2010 Yearling Sale.
The win came in Take Charge Indy's second start of the year. He turned the tables on El Padrino, who beat him by two lengths in a Jan. 29 allowance at Gulfstream. In stakes action last year, Take Charge Indy was second in the one-mile, Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity, fourth in the 1 1/16-mile, Grade I Dixiana Breeders' Futurity and fifth in the 1 1/16-mile, Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Patrick Byrne, Take Charge Indy: “I wasn’t surprised at all. He’s been training great, and the jock did a super job. When we ran Jan. 28 (sic), we really didn’t think he’d run as hard as he did against El Padrino. He ran hard that day, and he got tired. He needs five, six weeks, at least, so that’s the reason we took aim at the Tampa Bay race. When we were sitting there, and he drew the 10 hole, Chuck and I and Marybeth were talking about it, and we said ‘That colt is doing so well, why don’t we take a shot in the Florida Derby.
“We knew he liked the racetrack. We’re not surprised. It’s a great result with that pedigree and a Grade 1. Chuck and Marybeth have been in the business two years, and this is their first Grade 1. They deserve it. We’ve been fortunate over the years.
"The past two years, I kind of wasn’t feeling that great. I kind of backed away from the business a little bit. I was just playing around with seven, eight, nine horses. I actually now train…all my owners are friends of mine. I don’t get the aggravation of the hustle and bustle. Like, for instance, making the decision not to go to Tampa and come here, which was a last minute deal. Those kinds of things don’t always work out but it certainly worked out today. The horse is a good horse, we have a great rider in Calvin and we have wonderful owners, so it’s a really good day.
“I didn’t feel there was any pressure on me going in. I was seven, eight to one. Mike was 1-5 (sic). It’s nice to be 1-5 because it usually means you have the best horse on that day. But I wouldn’t trade places with him. This was a solid race today. I appreciate owners like Chuck and Maribeth Sandford for giving me an opportunity. I’m blessed to have a horse like Take Charge Indy.”
Calvin Borel, Take Charge Indy: “He needed the last race, I don’t care what anybody says. This horse, he has the potential; he has the breeding behind him. Pat’s been to the big dance, so he wasn’t coming to play, I’ll tell you that.”
“He’d been off for a while, and I didn’t want to take anything from him. I think we got enough out of the race last time for today, and it set him up just right. This horse has the breeding to go on down the road.
“I wasn’t going to go :47 like I did last time. I let him do his thing last time, and it took its toll a little bit. We were trying to get him ready. I think we were able to go in 1:12, and I was pretty comfortable with that. When we hit the five and a half furlong pole, I knew it was going to take a good horse to run me down. The other horses were coming. We finished up pretty good. It wasn’t like nobody was coming. I think this colt will get better in time.”
Owner Chuck Sandford, Take Charge Indy: “We’ve been in the business about 2 1/2 years. I used to go to OTB in Illinois all the time and look at the Racing Form and I saw Patrick wasn’t racing much anymore. I admired him for years. I said, ‘My God, I can get a horse if this guy will train him for me…one of the best in the country.
“I’m still in shock over winning this race. We knew we had a nice, top-bred colt. His breeding screams race horse. But some day he's just got to get out there and do it. I talked to Pat coming down here today. ‘Will you look at the races we’ve run in? We’ve put this poor sucker in two Grade I’s and a Grade III. He’s only run five times. Well, now he’s in three Grade I’s and we finally got one of them. Calvin has been the perfect answer. He fits the colt to a tee. And the nice thing about the colt is he has front-end speed, he’s tactical, which Calvin is so magical when you have that kind of horse.”
Elvis Trujillo, on board Reveron: “I knew this horse was going to run well. I worked him a few times at Calder, and he worked very well. We almost got there. He ran a great race.”
Trainer Agustin C. Bezara, Reveron: Where will you go from here? “The Kentucky Derby. The race was very good, and that’s good. It was the first time we ran with the rest of these horses, and can. Like this, we’re going for the other (race). He’s a great horse.” Bezara said he will train the horse at Calder leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
Michael Matz, Union Rags: “He sprung his right hind shoe in the paddock, but I don’t think it was a big deal. We had to tack it back on.
“Julien said Javier (Castellano) was on him the whole time down the backside, but that’s just race-riding. He said he should have been closer the way the track has been right now. Horses aren’t coming back. (Take Charge Indy) got an easy lead, and he got a head start on me, and we just couldn’t get him. Julien said he just didn’t get out in time, and the way the track is today, you had to be close to the pace. I’m not going to trade with anybody. It’s just unfortunate how it turned out today, but he can’t help that. It was just one of those things.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux (Union Rags): “He ran good, and he finished good. We were in traffic and they were riding me. My horse finished well, especially the last 1/8. It was just bad luck. He is a professional. He doesn’t care about being on the rail, in behind, or dirt (in his face). Nobody paid attention to the winner, they let him go. I guess they just target the favorite.
Todd Pletcher, El Padrino: “He got kind of a wide trip around there, but Javier had Union Rags down inside of him and got a clean trip. He just didn’t finish. We’ll see how he comes out of it and decide where to go from there.”
Javier Castellano, El Padrino: “I was in a good spot, stalking the pace on the outside in control of the pace. That worked out great, but, unfortunately, he didn’t respond. He didn’t kick, he just continued on steady. He just didn’t have it today.”