Mother Nature has out when great thoroughbreds go to the breeding shed, often with disheartening results. But Take Charge Lady is one case where what Mother Nature had to say is absolutely fitting.
For those of us who remember her on the track, Take Charge Lady (1999) was a valiant and relentless campaigner, taking on the much-adored Azeri (1998), as well as You (1999), Bobby Frankel’s champion, Sightseek (1999), Canadian HOF Dancethruthedawn (1998) and the talented Farda Amiga (1999) in a career that spanned three seasons.
The determination Take Charge Lady showed here in 2002 was characteristic of her. She was what the industry calls an “honest” thoroughbred, meaning that she always did her absolute best, no matter who was at her throat latch. By Dehere (1991) whose BM sire was Secretariat (1970), out of the Rubiano (1987) mare, Felicita (1994), the lean, dark bay filly was destined to be one of her sire’s most outstanding offspring. Trained by Kenny McPeek, who had purchased her for the modest sum of $175,000 USD for Jerry and Faye Bach’s Select Stable, Take Charge Lady took the Alcibiades Stakes as a 2 year-old and then, at 3, won the Silverbulletday, Ashland, Dogwood and Spinster Stakes (which she would win again in 2003), as well as the Fairground Oaks.
Take Charge Lady took the Silverbulletday by 8 1/2 lengths, setting a track record; three weeks later, over the slop, she won again by a comfortable 5 lengths. In April, she met up again with Beltera, a very good filly who’d beaten her the year before, to annex the Ashland Stakes (G1):
After the Ashland, McPeek seriously considered running Take Charge Lady against the colts in the Kentucky Derby, opting instead for the Kentucky Oaks. But her front-running ways got the better of her and Farda Amiga (1999) took full advantage of it. Take Charge Lady finished in second place. The loss likely cost her the Eclipse that year in the 3 year-old filly division, which went to the Oaks winner. But horses don’t know about Eclipse Awards — they only exist for us two-legged folk.
Illness beset Take Charge Lady throughout her 3 year-old season. First it was a lung infection and then she started to lose weight. So she was given a longish break, returning in the G1 Gazelle, where she ran a game second. Then, under the great hands of Edgar Prado, she took on older fillies and mares in the 2002 Spinster. It was a dazzling performance — the kind that gives you goosebumps:
Then came the BC Distaff at Arlington Park, where the brilliant daughter of Dehere was beaten by thirteen lengths. But Take Charge Lady had a good reason for the loss: shortly after the race, she was diagnosed with still another lung infection.
McPeek’s most gallant of ladies was back as a 4 year-old and again, she delighted her connections. The filly began her autumn campaign in the Grade III Arlington Matron Handicap on September 1. Ridden by Shane Sellers, the champion conceded at least six pounds to her opponents. After tracking the leader, Sellers moved her into the lead a quarter of a mile from the finish and Take Charge Lady drew away to win by eleven lengths. Sellers commented “She’s something else. She’s a joy to ride. She’s been the highlight of my comeback.” (Sellers had been sidelined in 2003 with injuries.)
On October 5 at Keeneland — arguably her favourite track — Take Charge Lady attempted to become only the fourth horse to ever win the Spinster Stakes for a second time. She was made the 1/2 favorite ahead of You. Edgar Prado was in the irons again and he sent Take Charge Lady into the lead on the final turn, opening up a clear advantage in the homestretch and enabling his filly to hold off a late charge from You. After the race Prado explained, “She got a little tired the last seventy yards but these kind of horses give you everything to the wire.”
By the time she retired, late in her 4 year-old season, Take Charge Lady was a millionaire twice over. And even though she had been one of those greats that racing fans never forget, her second career has been equally brilliant. Too, she is still another example of Secretariat’s sire power through his daughters, since her sire, Dehere, is a son of Sister Dot (Secretariat). Of course, the rest of her pedigree is also outstanding, but the intrigue of the Secretariat “big heart” trait is that it does, indeed, seem to be showing up in Take Charge Lady’s sons to date.
The young mare began her broodmare days at Three Chimneys, but in November 2004 she was consigned by Eaton Sales and sold, in foal to Seeking The Gold, for 4.2 million to a consortium of Kentucky breeders. That 2004 foal was Take Charge Lady’s first, a filly named Charming. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Charming raced three times before suffering a career-ending injury. Usually, a thoroughbred who appears on the track this briefly is easy to forget. But Charming had a little something up her sleeve: Take Charge Brandi, the juvenile filly superstar of 2014 and Charming’s second foal. Trained by the iconic G. Wayne Lukas, here’s Take Charge Brandi winning the 2014 BC Juvenile Fillies in the same style as her grandam:
With a final win in the Starlet Stakes, Take Charge Brandi closed out her juvenile season a millionaire.
Nor is Brandi Lukas’ first experience with Take Charge Lady’s family: just as Take Charge Brandi was making her presence felt in 2014, Will Take Charge (2010), his dam’s fifth foal, was retiring. And, like so many great racing stories, Will Take Charge had one of his very own:
Well, the big colt with the white face didn’t win the Derby, but by the summer at Saratoga, having had the chance to grow into that body and without blinkers, he began to turn into a force to be reckoned with:
The colt went on from the Travers to win the Pennsylvania Derby and the Clark and Oaklawn Handicaps. But it was in the BC Classic that Will Take Charge ran his best race of 2013, showing that he was, indeed, his mama’s son:
Take Charge Lady’s other notable son to race to date was the regally-bred Take Charge Indy (2009), sired by A.P. Indy. As a runner, the colt clearly had potential but not a whole lot of luck: after the Kentucky Derby he underwent surgery for a chipped bone in his left front ankle and then, racing as a 4 year-old in the Monmouth Cup, he sustained a condylar fracture. Once healed, Take Charge Indy was retired to stud at Winstar. Here he is, under the seasoned guidance of the great Calvin Borel, winning the Florida Derby as a 3 year-old:
Take Charge Lady has two other offspring waiting in the wings, an Indian Charlie filly named I’ll Take Charge (2012) and Conquering, her 2013 War Front filly. I’ll Take Charge was purchased by Mandy Pope and Whisper Hill Farm in 2013 and has yet to race.
Voted the 2013 Broodmare of the Year, Take Charge Lady is now fifteen and awaiting the arrival of a second War Front foal in 2015. She is dappled and fit and seems to enjoy her second career enormously.
Take Charge Lady is remarkable for her stamina, courage and heart, qualities she has passed on to her young. But a Great One — a lady who only knows how to do her very best and does it with class every time — has a way of bringing language to heel.
A SPECIAL NOTE:
It seems hard to believe, but THE VAULT will enter its fourth year in 2015 and its success is the result of readers like you. From Hong Kong to South Africa, from Romania and the Arab Emirates to Australia, and from Alaska to Argentina, you have come here to learn and be entertained. Often, you take the time to share stories from your own lives, as well as ideas, great books and so much more with myself and other VAULT readers. Every message is a treasure, and your support is the energy that powers THE VAULT. I thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart. I wish each of you all the joy of this holiday season and a New Year filled with laughter, the love of family and friends and more great horses like Take Charge Lady to fill your heart with magic. Abigail Anderson, Montreal, Canada