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Will Take Charge reigns supreme in Pennsylvania Derby

Will Take Charge will seek to carry his blossoming form forward in the Breeders' Cup Classic (Barbara Weidl/Equi-Photo)

Willis D. Horton's Will Take Charge continued to build upon his upset win in the Travers Stakes, easily proving best in Saturday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, and the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt established himself as a top contender for champion three-year-old honors in the process. Luis Saez guided the improving son of Unbridled's Song, who completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 1/5 on the fast Parx Racing track.

Will Take Charge left the starting gate as the 2-1 favorite among eight rivals in the Grade 2 event and settled into a good trip outside of horses in fifth, racing within five lengths of fractions in :23 1/5, :46 3/5 and 1:10 2/5. Moreno, who was caught in the final strides when finishing a nose second in the Travers, showed the way on a short lead with Fury Kapcori tracking in second. Speak Logistics and Romansh were also up close to the early action.

Battier launched an eye-catching move into contention on the far turn as Will Take Charge bided his time through the bend, but Saez suddenly found himself with no where to go, behind a wall of horses entering the stretch. The jockey adroitly navigated his mount to the inside for clear sailing and the response was immediate.

Will Take Charge needed only a few strides to storm his way into lead, reaching the eighth pole in 1:36 with a half-length advantage, and continued to draw away for a 2 1/4-length decision.

The chestnut paid $6.60 to win after the impressive performance.

Moreno surrendered the lead initially to Battier, but the pacesetter re-rallied late to edge that rival by a neck for second. Battier wound up 1 1/2 length better than fourth-placer Transparent. Fury Kapcori, Romansh, Speak Logistics and Java's War completed the order of finish.

Will Take Charge broke his maiden in his second career start last fall and after an unplaced finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, he concluded his juvenile season with a runner-up in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park. He opened 2013 with a victory in the Smarty Jones in January but didn't fire when making his next start over a sloppy track in the Grade 3 Southwest, checking in sixth.

There will be no controversy surrounding Will Take Charge's convincing victory over Moreno in the Pennsylvania Derby (Bill Denver/Equi-Photo)

The well-bred colt rebounded with a 28-1 upset in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes in mid-March and then trained up to the Kentucky Derby. He launched a bid from off the pace over the sloppy track at Churchill Downs but was stopped in midstretch when a tiring Verrazano drifted out into his path, winding up eighth in the first leg of the Triple Crown. Will Take Charge continued on along the trail but was never a factor finishing seventh in the Preakness and 10th in the Belmont Stakes.

After a well-deserved freshening, Will Take Charge returned to action with a fast-closing second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 27, only a length back of Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice. He defeated that same rival, as well as highly-regarded opponents Orb and Verrazano, in the August 24 Travers, earning his first Grade 1 tally.

Moreno's trainer, Eric Guillot, accused Saez of using an illegal device during the Travers, a charge vehemently denied by both Saez and Lukas, and the matter is still being investigated, according to officials with the New York State Gaming Commission.

Will Take Charge will head into his next engagement, the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 2, with plenty of momentum and the Eclipse Award for champion three-year-old could be on the line in the 1 1/4-mile event.

Bred in Kentucky by Eaton, Will Take Charge hails from the multiple Grade 1-winning mare Take Charge Lady, a daughter of Dehere who earned more than $2.4 million. The 14-year-old has proven to be a rousing success as a broodmare as well.

Will Take Charge is a half-brother to Grade 1-winning millionaire Take Charge Indy, hero of last year's Florida Derby and the Grade 2 Alysheba earlier this season. Take Charge Lady is also responsible for an unnamed yearling filly by Indian Charlie who recently sold for $2.2 million at the Keeneland September sale and a 2013 filly by War Chant.

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