Take Charge Indy took charge from the start and never looked back on his way to scoring the upset victory at the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Betting favorite Union Rags (0.40:1), hit his best stride just a tad too late. He ran in tight quarters until the home stretch, where jockey Julien Leparoux was able to swing to the outside and make a late rally that fell short by just over a length.
El Padrino, who was the second betting choice (2.70:1) and the expected challenge for Union Rags, never fired and finished fourth. He just did not have enough late in the race to mount a charge.
Ridden by Calvin Borel, Take Charge Indy took the lead shortly after the start and settled nicely in front of Reveron—with Elvis Trujillo aboard—covering the first quarter-mile in :23.60.
Neck N' Neck was following in third at the rail with El Padrino on the outside. Jockey Javier Castellano moved El Padrino to clear Union Rags and keep him on his inside and right behind him.
Union Rags was right behind them under a strong hold by jockey Leparoux.
Borel was able to slow the pace just a little for the half-mile (:47.71) and the three-quarter-mile (1:12.09) poles. That might have given him just what Take Charge Indy needed to repel the charge of a hard-chasing Reveron on the stretch.
Reveron made his bid around the final turn and into the stretch but had to settle for finishing second, barely holding over the late charge by Union Rags.
Did Julien Leparoux cost Union Rags the victory?
I have heard a lot of debate regarding Leparoux's ride of Union Rags. I don't think his mistake was the decision to take Union Rags to the inside as they reached the home stretch and then swing him to the outside late.
I rather think that he lost the race when he allowed Castellano and El Padrino to box him inside before the first quarter-mile pole. From there he had to battle with the colt to keep him from going early and was restrained behind a wall of horses until the stretch.
Union Rags should be fine for the Kentucky Derby and easily handle the added distance.
But the strategy has to be different. If Leparoux had a hard time handling traffic behind four horses here, imagine what will be when he has to shift through a 20-horse field at the Derby.
Although Take Charge Indy might not have bolted to the top of the favorites list for the Kentucky Derby, he should not be taken lightly either.
One very important factor I won't overlook is the fact that three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel is aboard. If you want to discard him, I strongly suggest you remember two horses with the names of Mine That Bird and Super Saver that were not exactly marquee names before winning the Derby.
Take Charge Indy reminds me a lot of Super Saver—a horse that was among the best in the division throughout his career and won the Derby under a master ride by Borel.
Take Charge Indy had not run in two months since he lost in an optional claimer allowance race to El Padrino on Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park. He showed a lot of grit and resiliency and keeps improving.
From Bloodhorse.com's Twitter we see that he is taking an early trip to Churchill Downs, so he is getting a head start on many others.
Take Charge Indy is a son of A.P. Indy out of the multiple stakes-winning mare Take Charge Lady by Dehere. He is owned by Chuck and Maribeth Sandford and trained by Patrick Byrne.
Florida Derby | Grade I | Purse: $1,000,000 | Distance: 1-1/8 Miles
Condition: Fast on Dirt
Fractional Times: :23.60, :47.71, 1:12.09; 1:35.96
Final Time: 1:48.79