Will Take Charge surges late to seize Travers glory
"These races, the Triple Crown races, the Breeders' Cup and the Travers, especially at this time of year when horses have had hard campaigns, they're special."
Winner of the Rebel Stakes and Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park earlier this year, Will Take Charge was not a serious factor in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes, but he prepped for the 1 1/4-mile Travers with a runner-up finish in the July 27 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. He moved forward off that encouraging effort while being ridden for the first time by Luis Saez.
Will Take Charge paid $21.20 to win as the 9-1 fourth choice among nine rivals.
Moreno, a 31-1 longshot, showed speed as expected at the start and got away with surprisingly mild fractions of :24 2/5 and :48 4/5 on a short lead, with Romansh and 8-5 favorite Verrazano together a couple of lengths back stalking the front-runner. Saez guided Will Take Charge into a perfect spot in midpack entering the first turn and raced in tandem to the outside of Kentucky Derby winner Orb down the backstretch, within five lengths of the lead the entire way.
Moreno reached six furlongs in 1:13 2/5 with a two-length cushion, but his advantage had nearly evaporated by the conclusion of the far turn and he drifted a little wide into stretch. Orb cut the corner along the rail and stuck a head in front in front passing the mile mark in 1:37 2/5. Will Take Charge was still 3 1/2 lengths back in fifth with a quarter-mile remaining.
"I took a chance on an up-and-coming rider," Lukas added. "I thought my horse trained well, but these things are so tough."
Moreno held second by three-quarters of a length over Orb, with the fast-closing Palace Malice another nose back in fourth after a troubled trip.
"Brutal, huh? Last jump," trainer Eric Guillot said of the narrow setback with Moreno. "He couldn't have done any better -- stay in the three-path, stay off the rail, make them come to you, don't let them go inside you, don't let them pinch you on the rail.
"The kid (Jose Ortiz) rode him just like I told him. He knows the horse and he rode him perfect; we got beat. He said the horse kind of waited on them that last part. What are you going to do?"
Palace Malice does his best running up on the front end, but he was relegated to last during the early stages after stumbling and getting slammed inward by Transparency at the start.
"You have to go back (to the replay) and watch the break," Mike Smith said of Palace Malice. "He broke really, really, really bad. What am I going to do? I cannot go for the lead. All I could do is sit back there, creep up, creep up, creep up and see if I could get him there. I thought I still had it for a little bit there, but it was just too much to make up."
Romansh finished another 3 1/4 lengths back in fifth and was followed under the wire by War Dancer, Verrazano, Golden Soul and Transparent.
"I was very happy where I was (early on)," jockey John Velazquez said of the trip aboard Verrazano. "By the half-mile pole, he was off the bridle and just went through the motions. He really didn't put in much effort."
"He's a little over 17 hands and just starting to find himself," Lukas said of the chestnut. "This is a horse who's going to get better. He's getting his act together."
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