by Teresa Genaro
Sporting silks with an image of a man tossing a pizza in the air, Joe Bravo rode Takecharge Mirella into the winner’s circle at Saratoga after the 7TH Race on Sunday. The two-year-old filly had barely held on to win by a nose, breaking her maiden in her second start.
“That was too close for comfort,” he called to owner Domenic Fuda. “Brian was on our back for those last few jumps.”
Bravo was referring to Brian Morgan, a grandson of the late trainer Red Terrill, who had gotten Fuda into the game about a decade ago.
Morgan chose those silks. Morgan picked out this horse.
“This was a special win for us,” said Fuda, choked up. “It was Brian that made the call to run here.”
Three weeks ago, Takecharge Mirella made her debut for Fuda and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The Takecharge Indy filly ran into Feedback, perhaps the most impressive two-year-old filly performer at Saratoga this summer, finishing second by eight lengths.
Her second race on Sunday was a lot closer.
Bravo settled her into fourth in the three path up the backstretch, about four lengths behind pacesetting Tweedia. Heading into the far turn, Takecharge Mirella did just that, zipping past Utiki and Brass Ring, then vanquishing Tweedia, and at the eighth-pole, she looked pretty much home free.
But Positive Spirit took a run at her, and up the rail sneaked Stand for the Flag, who looked like she might have nailed Takecharge Mirella on the wire, but the latter hung on to get the win.
Fuda purchased Takecharge Mirella for $50,000 at this year’s OBS April sale of two-year-olds in training. In the past he had owned harness horses and was interested in buying Thoroughbreds when he met Morgan through a mutual friend.
Morgan bought his first Thoroughbred, and according to Fuda, the last nine or 10 horses raced by Big Dom Racing Stable.
“He told me, ‘We’ll get silks with a little guy making pizza on them,’” said Fuda, smiling. “I said, ‘You’re kidding me, right?’
“’No,’ he said. And that’s how I got my silks.”
Brian Morgan passed away suddenly last week after suffering a heart attack at the track.
More than a business associate – in addition to picking out horses, he introduced Fuda to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin – Morgan was also Fuda’s friend.
“You’ve got a nice filly there,” Bravo said after Sunday’s win, hugging the owner.
“This one,” said Fuda, “is for Brian.”