Will someone please “take charge” of the 3-year-old colt division?
After three different winners of the Triple Crown races this year, along with a handful of pretenders to supremacy, there was a frustrating sameness to the result of Saturday's Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
A relatively fresh face named Will Take Charge won the “Midsummer Derby,” with Kentucky Derby winner Orb third, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice fourth, and Haskell Invitational winner Verrazano seventh.
By this time, about the only thing I'd feel comfortable predicting for the flashy chestnut son of Unbridled's Song is that the colt will lose his next major engagement. That seems to be the prevailing pattern among this year's top-shelf 3-year-old colts.
We can all decide for ourselves whether that means these are all really good animals or just happy to share the glory. In fairness to the Travers winner, his best form – a head victory over Oxbow in the G2 Rebel Stakes in March and a length second to Palace Malice in the G2 Jim Dandy last month – puts him right there with the divisional leaders.
The bright spot in this merry-go-round of racing success is that a slew of stallions and farms have gotten a turn in the bright spotlight of fame month after month.
And on Saturday, Will Take Charge put a further shine to the accomplishments of his sire, the recently deceased Unbridled's Song.
A handsome gray of uncommon size and length, Unbridled's Song was 20 at the time of his death on July 26 from complications of a large inoperable mass in his head. He stood his entire stud career at Taylor Made Farm south of Lexington.
There, Unbridled's Song had great success, just as was envisioned from his racing career. A horse with a tremendous zest for racing, Unbridled's Song had been a $200,000 yearling at the 1994 Saratoga select sale and then went through the ring at Barretts the following spring for $1.4 million, a record price for a 2-year-old in training at the time.
The high bidder, Hiroshi Fujita, turned the colt back due to a flake in an ankle, and Japan's loss was America's gain. Unbridled's Song won the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile later in 1995 over Hennessy and then won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial in preparation for the 1996 Kentucky Derby, where he came home fifth.
Unbridled's Song never won another top-level race but retired in 1997 with five victories in 12 starts and earnings of $1.3 million. He entered stud at Taylor Made, where he stood for 17 seasons.
Unbridled's Song was one of the first high-end stallions to stand his entire career at stud in the era of the mega-books, and he has 1,306 foals of racing age, according to Jockey Club products. The stallion is credited with 931 starters (71 percent), 624 winners (48 percent), and 92 stakes winner (7 percent). Bloodstock Research gives the stallion 1,277 foals, 918 starters (72 percent), 610 winners (48 percent), and 101 stakes winners (8 percent). These figures do not include the stallion's yearlings, foals of 2013, or prospective foals of 2014 from mares bred this spring.
In addition to having a famous sire, Will Take Charge is out of first-rate racemare and producer, Take Charge Lady (Dehere). A winner three times at the G1 level (Ashland and two runnings of the Spinster), Take Charge Lady also won the then-G2 Alcibiades at her beloved Keeneland, four additional graded stakes, and placed second in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps, and Gazelle.
Racing from 2001 to 2003, Take Charge Lady was one of the very best fillies of the preceding decade. Now, she has proven herself one of the very best producers.
From five runners, Take Charge Lady has two G1 winners. The other is last year's Florida Derby victor, Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy), who is as dark and unflashy as Will Take Charge is the reverse. Take Charge Indy joins the WinStar Farm stallion roster in 2014.
The siblings also have different styles of racing. Take Charge Indy showed his best form galloping on the front, whereas Will Take Charge came flying in the Travers from far back to win the race in the final strides.
Will Take Charge proved a good sales yearling, bringing $425,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September sale, but he is out of a mare with such credentials and presence that she sold for $4.2 million at the 2004 Keeneland November sale. In foal to Seeking the Gold and carrying her first foal, Take Charge Lady was hammered down to Eaton Sales. She returned most of that sum with the sale of her first foal, the filly Charming, at the 2006 Keeneland September sale. The filly brought $3.2 million from Todd Pletcher, agent.
Bred in Kentucky by Eaton, Will Take Charge sold to Willis Horton.
Take Charge Lady does not have a 2-year-old, but has a yearling filly by Indian Charlie who is cataloged as Hip 541 in the upcoming Keeneland September sale and a filly of 2013 by War Front.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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