Take Charge Indy Leads All-Star Cast in Donn Handicap
WinStar Farm and Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s 4-year-old Take Charge Indy, winner of the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park last year for trainer Pat Byrne, will get plenty of support to add another major prize to his resume when he makes his 2013 season debut in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) over the same track and 1 1/8 miles distance.
The 57th edition of the Donn has drawn an intriguing top-class field of 10 with B.J. Wright’s 5-year-old Ultimate Eagle invading from California, Bourbon Lane Stable and Wayne Lynn’s 4-year-old Bourbon Courage flown in from New Orleans and Preston Stable’s 7-year-old Flat Out, the 3-1 morning line favorite, making his first start since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.
The Donn is one of five stakes races on Saturday's program at Gulfstream. The 12-race program also includes the $300,000 Kitten's Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap featuring 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Animal Kingdom and the multiple Grade I winning Point of Entry.
Jockey John Velazquez gets aboard Take Charge Indy for the first time in his first start since a game runner-up effort in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23 when beaten a length by Shackleford. That good effort came following a third-place finish in the Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland in his first race since the Kentucky Derby (G1),
A regally-bred son of A.P. Indy out of Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, Take Charge Indy, 6-1 in the morning line, went into the Kentucky Derby at 12-to-1 after the Florida Derby, but finished a disappointing 19th of 20 and was found to have a bone chip in his left front ankle that later required surgery to remove.
“We’re really looking forward to see where he fits with the older horses because we’re planning to run him all year,” said Byrne. “It looks like there is plenty of speed in there. The California horse (Ultimate Eagle) looks like he might need the lead. If somebody wants the lead they can have it and we’ll sit behind. This looks like a good, competitive field. I can’t even figure out who will be the favorite.”
Jockey Martin Pedroza flies in from California for the mount on Ultimate Eagle for trainer Mike Pender. The Kentucky-bred has made all of his 12 career starts at Southern California tracks, winning five including the 2011 Hollywood Derby (G1) on turf and Strub Stakes (G2) on dirt at Santa Anita early last year.
Following a near nine-month layoff, Ultimate Eagle finished a game second on turf in the Citation Handicap (G2) at Hollywood Park in late November and second by a head last out behind Coil in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on Jan. 5. Ultimate Eagle worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 Monday morning at Hollywood Park and arrived in South Florida Tuesday on a Fed Ex cargo flight.
“He got here late last night in good shape,” said Pender who also arrived on a commercial flight. “We just thought it was time to test the waters out of town and see where he fits. He’ll be making his third start back off the layoff and the timing is right. He’s trained great.”
Ultimate Eagle has set the pace in most of his races. “He’s a high-spirited horse and likes to dictate in a race. As he’s gotten older he’s learned to come back to the rider and settle. I’m not worried about him getting in a speed duel. He’ll relax.”
Bourbon Courage also makes his first start since the Clark Handicap in which he finished third, a head behind Take Charge Indy, and trainer Kellyn Gorder has secured the services of leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano to ride him for the first time. The son of Lion Heart arrived here last Wednesday and posted a sharp half-mile workout over the track in 48 1/5 Sunday with Castellano getting a test drive.
Bourbon Courage has made only eight career starts but came around quickly last summer and fall finishing second by a half-length in the West Virginia Derby (G2) at Mountaineer Park in August, winning the Super Derby (G2) by five lengths at Louisiana Downs in September and second in the Indiana Derby (G2) at Hoosier Park in early October before the Clark.
Asked about strategy in the Donn, Gorder said, “He doesn’t need a speed duel or anything like that up front, but it would help him for there to be a legitimate pace to close in to.”
Flat Out rallied for a non-threatening third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 3 behind Forted Larned and Mucho Macho Man over a track that did not appear to help his closing style.
Jockey Joel Rosario gets a return call on the veteran son of Flatter for trainer Bill Mott, who took over his training last summer after Flat Out first came onto the national scene for trainer Scooter Dickey. Dickey guided Flat Out’s career through a fifth-place finish in last year’s Donn.
Prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Flat Out won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park as he did the year before for Dickey. In the 2012 Classic at Churchill Downs he finished a close-up fifth as the favorite, beaten three lengths for it all by Mott-trained upset winner Drosselmeyer.
Flat Out will carry high-weight of 121 pounds breaking from post position 2, conceding from one to seven pounds to his rivals.
“The consensus of the handicappers seemed to be that there was a disadvantage to the closers in the Breeders’ Cup,” said Mott. “We obviously hope he’s ready to run a big race off the layoff. We don’t have any specific plans for him after the Donn, except to keep him and Ron the Greek apart if we can.”
Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and partners’ 6-year-old Ron the Greek finished fourth behind Flat Out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and came back to win the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream on Jan. 19. Mott said the son of Full Mandate is on target to bid for a repeat victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on Sat., Mar. 2.
While Flat Out, Take Charge Indy and Bourbon Courage are all coming back from layoffs to make their 2013 season debuts in the Donn, Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff’s 4-year-old Csaba is the ‘now’ horse in the field with a pair of stakes victories at the meet and will bid for a fifth straight stakes score for trainer Phil Gleaves.
Regular jockey Luis Saez will be back aboard the son of Kitten’s Joy after they teamed up to post consecutive victories in the ‘off the turf’ Tropical Park Derby in October and Fred Hooper Handicap (G3) at Calder in November. He then added the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes here in December and then a game victory last out in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) turning back to a one-turn mile on Jan. 13.
“It’s a big test for us and most of the horses in the race” said Gleaves. “It’s a quality Donn field. The good thing about Csaba is that he’s proven to be so tractable. We don’t have to rely on anybody else in the race to show speed or not. He makes his own race.”
Beaten just a neck when second behind Csaba in the Hal’s Hope was William S. Farish’s Jr’s veteran 8-year-old Pool Play making his first starts since finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. His regular jockey Miguel Mena will be in town to ride for trainer Mark Casse.
Pool Play is the senior member of the field and has accumulated a $1.26 million bankroll with a career record of 34-7-7-6, his biggest victory coming in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs in June of 2011. He won the Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) in early October before the Breeders’ Cup Classic where his closing style may also have been compromised by the apparently speed-favoring track that day.
Golden Goose Enterprises and partners’ 6-year-old Citrus Kid will be a longshot in the field with jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. to ride for trainer John Terranova. The son of Lemon Drop Kid has credentials, but will be making only his second start since mid-September of 2011. Coming back from the long layoff here on Dec. 19, Citrus Kid beat a solid allowance field with heavy favorite El Padrino second going a mile.
Completing the field for the Donn are Twin Creek Racing Stables LLC’s Graydar, Edgar Prado; Richard Pell’s 4-year-old Fast Falcon and jockey Jose Lezcano named to ride for trainer Nick Zito, and Lisa Parbhoo’s 7-year-old Ducduc with J.L. Alvarez in the saddle for trainer Shivananda Parbhoo.