“It was pretty straightforward. He broke sharp and Calvin did a super job,” said Byrne Sunday morning of his colt’s 7-1 upset triumph in the 61st running of Gulfstream Park’s signature stakes.
Take Charge Indy broke alertly from the starting gate, set sensible fractions and drew off to an authoritative decision in the 1 1/8 mile prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1).
“He’s an awful fast horse. He’s a good horse. He’s a good colt. You know, the racetrack was in great shape and there was no secret how the racetrack was playing. My horse has tactical speed and he’s fast,” Byrne said. “I wouldn’t call it a souped-up track. Horses were running on or close to the lead. My horse can be close or taken back. It worked out fine.”
Trainer Michael Matz was forced to delve a little deeper to understand how his 2-5 favorite, Union Rags, could be beaten in the Florida Derby. But the reason for Union Rags’ third-place finish seemed fairly obvious.
Union Rags was rated in fourth behind the early pace while lacking running room due to the presence to his outside of 5-2 second choice El Padrino and jockey Javier Castellano. When jockey Julien Leparoux found running room in the stretch. Union Rags rallied for third, but was no threat to catch Take Charge Indy.
“I think he ran his race, I just think they went slow the first part and there wasn’t much we could do about it. The good part is I hope that Julien learned about the horse a little bit more. When they did go that slow, I think he would have tried to press the pace, but he was stuck in that trap and couldn’t get out of there,” Matz said. “He knows he’s on a horse that people are going to try to get him beat, and that’s what happened. The good thing about it is Julien will put himself in a better position where he won’t let that happen again.”
Union Rags, who had captured the Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 26 by four lengths in Leparoux’s debut aboard the son of Dixie Union, fell a neck short of catching runner-up Reveron, the Gulfstream Park Derby winner who finished third in the Sam Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs in his previous start.
“I’m sure he got a lot of experience out of the race and hopefully Julien learned more about him too,” said Matz, whose colt’s only previous loss came in a close second behind Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) after winning the Saratoga Special (G2) and Champagne (G1) last year.
“I’m sure Julien is harder on himself than everyone else is and that he should have got him running a little bit more at the beginning knowing that speed was holding up,” Matz said. “Once Javier got that position, Javier was more interested in beating Union Rags than the other horses.”
Matz reported that Union Rags came out of the Florida Derby in good order and was acting frisky when turned out in a paddock at Palm Meadows Training Center early Sunday morning.
“Obviously, I think he only ran the last quarter of a mile, so hopefully it wasn’t a tough race on him. Maybe the good part of it is that he didn’t run a hard race going into the Derby,” said Matz, who saddled Barbaro for victories in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby in 2006. “But it was just disappointing because I thought he was the best horse going in.”
Matz hasn’t firmed up plans for shipping to Kentucky for his quest to saddle his second Kentucky Derby winner.
“We’re going to be here for at least two weeks, then after that we’re going to make the decision whether we go up to Keeneland, Churchill or stay here,”. Those are three options and a lot depends on how the weather is. We’ll play it by ear.”
Byrne has firmed up his plans for Take Charge Indy, who captured his first graded-stakes victory in the Florida Derby.
“We’ll ship to Kentucky in 10 days,” Byrne said. “We’re going to Churchill Downs and back off for a couple of weeks and freshen him up. We’ll give him a couple of half miles run.”
Take Charge Indy captured his debut last July over Arlington Park’s Polytrack surface before finishing second in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3), fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
“We ran in three Grade 1s, so I wouldn’t have run him in graded stakes if I didn’t think he was special,” Byrne said. “He’s always shown a lot of talent. He has a tremendous amount of raw talent. He’s been on the immature side, and I’ve always said that the more time he gets, the bigger and stronger he’ll be. It’s been a normal progression and development.”
Borel, who has ridden three Kentucky Derby winners, has the return mount aboard Take Charge Indy in the Run for the Roses.
“Calvin rides Churchill so well. He’s a smart, heads-up rider. He’s a big-money rider, everyone knows that,” Byrne said. “He suits the colt well.”
Trainer Augustin Bezara said Reveron would be pointed toward the Kentucky, while Trainer Todd Pletcher reported that El Padrino came out of his disappointing fourth-place finish in the Florida Derby “really well.”