Take Charge Indy stamped his ticket to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday when he pulled the upset win in the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.
Saturday’s race was supposed to be a match-up of Kentucky Derby winning trainers Michael Matz and Todd Pletcher, whose colts—Union Rags and El Padrino, respectively—were the heavy favorites going into the race. However, when the horses broke from the starting gate, it was another Kentucky Derby winner that would steal the show.
Three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel took Take Charge Indy up the rail and to the lead. Never looking back and never tested, Take Charge Indy made quick work of the 1 1/8 mile race and won it in wire-to-wire style. Longshot Reveron, who followed in second throughout the race, held his position and finished second. Union Rags, the 2-5 post-time favorite, was tucked inside in fourth and was unable to get out from behind horses in time, but closed strongly to finish only a neck behind Reveron in third. El Padrino and jockey Javier Castellano were almost two lengths behind Union Rags in fourth with no obvious reason for the lackluster effort.
Jockey Julien Leparoux, aboard Union Rags, blamed himself for his colt’s poor performance and even remarked later on Twitter that he was going to stay off Twitter Saturday night and “to all the ones that said that I sucked, I will prove you wrong.”
“Julien said Javier was on him the whole time down the backside, but that’s just race-riding,” said trainer Michael Matz of the disappointing performance. “He said he should have been closer the way the track has been right now. Horses aren’t coming back. Pat’s horse got an easy lead and he got a head start on me, and we just couldn’t get him.”
Winning trainer, Patrick Byrne, said of Take Charge Indy’s position as third choice among the bettors at 7-1, “I didn’t feel there was any pressure on me going in. It’s nice to be 1-5 because it usually means you have the best horse on that day, but I wouldn’t trade places with him [Matz and Union Rags]. This was a solid race today. I appreciate owners like Chuck and Maribeth Sandford for giving me an opportunity. I’m blessed to have a horse like Take Charge Indy.”
Byrne took some heat in the press leading up to the Florida Derby because he scratched the son of A.P. Indy from the Tampa Bay Derby (March 10) due to a poor post position, opting to wait for the Florida Derby. The heat came because, in doing this, it created a two-month layoff between starts and would mean that Take Charge Indy would only have one prep and one chance to make the Kentucky Derby. With Saturday’s victory, Byrne put the naysayers in their places and proved that he knew just what was best for his Kentucky Derby contender.
Take Charge Indy paid $17.40, $9.00, and $3.90. Reveron returned $18.40 and $4.00 and completed the $2 exacta for $252.40. Union Rags paid $2.10 and completed the $1 trifecta for $224.80. El Padrino completed the $1 superfecta for $583.60. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile race over the fast track was 1:48.79. Click here to see a replay of the race.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby