Posts Tagged ‘Take Charge Lady’

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.

TAKE CHARGE LADY routs them all at Keeneland to win the Spinster. Photo and copyright, AP.

TAKE CHARGE LADY routs them all at Keeneland to win the Ashland Stakes. Photo and copyright, AP.

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.

TAKE CHARGE LADY ran her heart out as a 3 year-old and racing fans would never forget her for it.

TAKE CHARGE LADY ran her heart out as a 3 year-old and racing fans would never forget her for it. She is shown here in the first of two consecutive wins in the Spinster — only the fourth thoroughbred to accomplish this feat.


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.

TAKE CHARGE LADY brought the best of herself to her new career -- with stunning results!

TAKE CHARGE LADY brought the best of herself to her new career — with stunning results!

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.


TAKE CHARGE LADY in April 2014 looking dappled and gorgeous. Photo and copyright, Anne Eberhardt for The Blood-Horse.

TAKE CHARGE LADY in April 2014 looking dappled and gorgeous. Photo and copyright, Anne Eberhardt for The Blood-Horse.



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



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Here at THE VAULT, we’re thinking about the fillies and colts who tend to fly “under the radar” as Oaks and Derby day draw near. After all, our sport would be awfully dull if the favourites always won.

 Along the trail to the first Saturday in May, thoroughbred experts are busy vetting their instincts and know-how to come up with a likely winner. There are all kind of statistics to pour over: past performances, pedigrees, sire records, profiles of trainers and jockeys. And, when the posts are drawn, there will be debates about the impact of starting positions on performance.

Of course, all of this cogitating is what makes horse racing exciting.

With the inevitable focus on favourites, it’s easy to forget that every one of the colts or fillies entered in the Oaks or the Derby are there because they’ve earned it. Collectively, these 3 year-olds rank in the top 1% of all thoroughbreds born in the same year. They are athletes trained to perfection, cared for down to the last detail and, more often than not, loved by their handlers, owners and fans. 

As they parade before the stands on their way to the starting gate, we celebrate their accomplishments and the stories that brought them to Churchill Downs. In those opening moments before the field is set on its way, each filly and colt moves in a shining light of possibility. 

And, for the true racing fan, that’s what it’s really all about.

(NOTE: This article is based on the leader board (@ http://www.kentuckyderby.comfor the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby as of April 22, 2013)

There have been some stunning Derby upsets: Exterminator, who won in 1918, and Dark Star, who defeated Native Dancer in 1953, to name two of the most famous. Others include Donerail (won in 1913), Bold Venture (won in 1936) and, more recently, Thunder Gulch (1995).  And without question we must add the brilliant fillies Regret, Genuine Risk and Winning Colors who raced into history as members of an elite triad:

The Kentucky Oaks, inaugurated in 1875, has a no less prestigious history. Marking the start of Derby weekend, it is still seen as a bit of a “light weight” in comparison to the main event. But there are moments when the fillies deliver a champion so moving and so talented, that they manage to dwarf the colts.

……She stepped onto the track at Churchill Downs undefeated and, accordingly, the favourite in that year’s Kentucky Oaks. Her performance on that day was absolutely mind-boggling. Although Rachel Alexandra was neither a long shot nor an underdog, her resounding victory reminded everyone that great horses aren’t the sole domain of breeders like Coolmore, or trainers with enormous stables.

The place she won in our hearts on that day stands in memory as definitively as Secretariat’s Belmont, or Zenyatta’s triumph in the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic.

Kentucky Oaks 2013

Like the Derby, the Oaks has also known its fair share of upsets. The hugest (at 47-1) was Lemons Forever in 2006, who routed the favourite, Balance. But other fillies who flew under the radar until they came across the finish line ahead of the field include: Heavenly Cause (defeating De La Rose, Wayward Lass and the favourite, Truly Bound, in 1981), Seaside Attraction (who beat the undefeated Go For Wand in 1990), Luv Me Luv Me Not (1992), and Farda Amiga (who defeated Take Charge Lady and Habibti in 2002).  For all the statistics and analysis, nothing can dull the prospect of that pesky spirit of racing who, every so often, blesses a thoroughbred that was “under the radar.” Here are a few fillies that just might surprise us all.

 1. ROSE TO GOLD (Friends Lake ex. Saucy [Tabasco Cat])

Rose To Gold with jockey Calvin Borel. Photo and copyright, Steve McQueen.

Rose To Gold with jockey Calvin Borel. Photo and copyright, Steve Queen.

The chestnut daughter of Friends Lake is not exactly a long shot for the Oaks, having won 5 of 7 starts since her maiden at 2 and carrying second-highest points in the field.

However, Rose To Gold comes out of a lesser-known stable and is trained by Sal Santoro, who is hardly a household name. Her sire is useful if not brilliant, having yet to produce a superstar in his 6 foal crops to date. Then again, breeders can be fickle and in an environment where stallions like Smarty Jones get little respect, it’s tough to blame a sire for getting more modest winners. Rose To Gold’s pedigree also boasts the likes of A.P. Indy, together with Kentucky Derby winners Spend A Buck, Seattle Slew and Secretariat on top. Her dam, Saucy (Tabasco Cat ex. Sierra Madre by Mr. Prospector) has produced 6 foals to date, of which Rose To Gold is by far the most distinguished.

The question about Rose To Gold centres on the fields she’s taken on, or “Who did she beat?” She comes to the Kentucky Oaks out of Grade 3 stakes company, suggesting that stepping up to take on the likes of Dreaming of Julia will require that she’s at her absolute fittest. And it will be the filly’s first start at 1 1/4 miles. However, Rose To Gold has already romped in the slop to win the Fantasy Stakes and assuming that Calvin Borel — her steady jockey to date — gets the nod to ride her in the Oaks, we can count on her getting a very strategic ride.

2. SILSITA (Macho Uno ex. Naturally Wild [Wild Again])

The ravishing Silsita.

The ravishing Silsita.

Macho Uno’s elegant daughter, Silsita, has won 2 of her 4 starts and only ever been out of the money once. Her most recent win came in the Bourbonette, which she took in a head bob, although at the finish she looked as though she could easily go further than the mile. And, in prevailing to win the Bourbonette over a very determined Marathonlady, she showed that toughness that we associate with her grandsire, Holy Bull.

Although the best she has beaten is Pure Fun, and Flashforward proved too much for her in her second start on January 3, Silsita remains a “work in progress,” improving steadily over her last 2 races. Trained by the accomplished Todd Pletcher, we should assume that Silsita’s entry in the Oaks speaks loud about what he thinks of this filly. Silsita’s dam, a daughter of the great producer, Wild Again, made 33 starts, retiring with a record of 6-9-6 and earnings of $293,134 USD. The filly is Naturally Wild’s third foal to date and all have been modestly successful.

Holy Bull’s granddaughter may be poised to make the finest effort of her career on May 3.

3. SEANEEN GIRL (Spring At Last ex. Afternoon Krystal [Afternoon Deelites])

Spring At Last hails from the line of Deputy Minister and his dam,

Spring At Last hails from the sire line of Deputy Minister and his dam, Winter’s Gone, is 4 X 3 to both Ribot and Flower Bowl, through the spectacular brothers His Majesty and Graustark.

Winstar’s Spring At Last retired a black-type winner and millionaire: among his wins, the Godolphin Mile in the UAE, where he met up with international competition. His first crop are 3 year-olds this year and, if first crops mean anything in terms of a trend, his forte appears to lie with fillies. Spring In The Air and Spring Venture rank 1 and 2 as his most successful progeny, with Seaneen Girl in the number 3 slot. One can only hope that Spring At Last has transmitted some of Ribot’s invincibility to his young daughter:

Racing at 2, Seaneen Girl finished her juvenile season with a win at Churchill Downs in the Golden Rod Stakes.

Seaneen Girl winning the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in November 2012.

Seaneen Girl winning the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in November 2012.

Having made 7 starts in her career, winning 2 and finishing in the money another 3 times, this filly is honest and has performed consistently as a 3 year-old. She may have been beaten previously by Flashy Gray and Unlimited Budget, but Seaneen Girl has a very canny trainer in Bernie Flint, who has chalked up a sizeable number of winners and been the leading training at several different race tracks, including Churchill Downs.

Even though Seaneen Girl is stepping up in class to take on some serious talent, there is no doubt that she will try her best to run them down. The fractions in her last 2 races compare nicely against the recent performances of favourites like I Dream Of Julia.With a pedigree that includes names like Dynaformer, Waquoit, Graustark (4 X4), Roberto, Princequillo and Secretariat, Seaneen Girl has enough blue blood to do battle with the very best.


1. LINES OF BATTLE (War Front ex. Black Speck [Arch])

Make no mistake about it: Lines of Battle is a very fine specimen who, if he shows up for the Derby, arrives at Churchill Downs with the second-highest earnings in the field. His last race was a win in the UAE Derby (above) and he carries a decidedly American — and deep — pedigree. War Front is proving a very good sire and the colt’s dam, Black Speck, is a half-sister to Dynaformer and she has already produced other black-type winners.

The magnificent Lines of Battle at work prior to winning the UAE Derby.

The magnificent Lines of Battle at work prior to winning the UAE Derby.

The key factor mitigating against his being a resounding Derby favourite is that it remains unclear whether or not his connections have been able to de-code the requirements to win the Kentucky Derby. Aidan O’Brien has certainly been knocking at the Derby door, and no-one would contest his brilliance. However, Coolmore’s Derby entrants consistently arrive close to Derby day and this means their colts have had little time to acclimatize to the change of scene and the deep Churchill track. Lines of Battle will find himself in the same situation as previous Coolmore entrants, although he does have a dirt pedigree, something that many of the other O’Brien trainees have lacked. The impeccably bred son of War Front will get 2 works over the track prior to the Derby, but it should be noted that several of the hottest contenders have been at Churchill for several weeks.

In terms of running style, Lines of Battle tends to be a closer and, in a race where stalkers and closers have the decided advantage, he may indeed give Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien a much-covetted crown.

2. ITSMYLUCKYDAY (Lawyer Ron ex. Viva La Slew [Doneraile Court])

Although there are stamina questions about the mile and 1/4 being the best fit for this colt, it’s impossible not to love the honest Itsmyluckyday. He’s got all the bling that made us love his daddy, Lawyer Ron. He’s also chalked up a lot of running experience under trainer Eddie Plesa Jr’s tutelage: Itsmyluckyday makes his 11th start on the first Saturday in May.

Itsmyluckyday pictured after his win at Gulfstream.

Itsmyluckyday pictured after his second place finish to Orb in the Florida Derby.

In the Florida Derby, the colt was well-beaten by Orb, but he also chalked up a second defeat of Shanghai Bobby and Frac Daddy in as many starts. Itsmyluckyday always gives 100% +. And he’s a stalker, another advantage in a Derby where there are no speed horses. But this colt has speed when he needs it: he ran the Gulfstream Park Derby in 1:09 flat in his first start of 2013 (below). In a word, Itsmyluckyday was brilliant in that race, although the competition was not up to the standards of his subsequent Holy Bull win.

But this determined colt is coming along very nicely and he may just do his daddy proud come Derby day!

3. WILL TAKE CHARGE (Unbridled’s Song ex. Take Charge Lady [Dehere])

Aside from the important fact that this colt has done everything right coming up to the Derby, his dam was a superstar who had the kind of heart that makes falling in love with thoroughbreds easy. Will Take Charge is her second offspring, after Take Charge Indy, to show his mettle on the track.

Here is Take Charge Lady battling it out with HOTY Azeri in the 2003 Apple Blossom:

The white-faced Will Take Charge is a big colt, still growing into himself, but he’s willing, rates off the pace nicely and comes with a cavalry charge at the end, as befits his name. If there is reticence about his chances, it might be that he has never gone over a mile and 1/16. But his win in the Rebel was breathtaking and in this, his final pre-Derby prep, Will Take Charge out-duelled his talented stablemate, Oxbow, in a manner that was reminiscent of his dam’s battle with Azeri:

And last, but hardly least, Will Take Charge is trained by HOF trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.

Need we say more? The combination of legendary Lukas and Will Take Charge's heart and pedigree may very well land them in the Winner's Circle on May 4.

Need we say more? The legendary D. Wayne Lukas is tied for most Triple Crown victories with the late, incomparable Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons.

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