Will Take Charge, at odds of 9-1, charged to victory to win the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY by a nose over front-runner Moreno. The victory gave Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his third overall Travers victory and first since Thunder Gulch won it in 1995. It was the first Travers win and first Grade 1 victory for twenty-one-year old jockey Luis Saez.
As expected, Eric Guillot's Moreno was on the lead early, along with Tom Albertrani's Romansh. The longshot pair took the field around the 1 1/4 mile route in a sauntering pace, until rivals began making moves around the final turn. Orb, Verrazano, Palace Malice, and Will Take Charge were there, but it seemed that Moreno might be able to hold them off as none appeared to be coming at him too quickly. It was Will Take Charge that was able to slowly pick off his rivals and take the win by a big blazing nose over Moreno.
Will Take Charge earned his first victory since winning the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes Mar. 16. He finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and may have been able to hit the board there if not for traffic issues in the stretch. He returned in the Preakness (G1) and finished seventh, went on to the Belmont (G1) and finished tenth, and, most recently, nabbed second in the Jim Dandy (G2). His next start will likely be the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) Sept. 28 or the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) Sept. 21.
Todd Pletcher's duo of Verrazano and Palace Malice, who were expected to be close behind Moreno in the early going, were farther back Saturday. Verrazano was able to grasp second place for a short time, but wide trips pushed him back and he finished seventh. Palace Malice was able to overcome a bad break at the start to finish fourth, but as far back as second to last in the early going, likely cost him the race.
The Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, who returned from a two-month layoff, was unable to get by Moreno and finished a respectable third. Trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey III had to replace regular rider Joel Rosario with jockey Jose Lezcano the day of the race after Rosario suffered a broken foot in a race Friday afternoon. Rosario will be out an estimated six weeks.
Will Take Charge returned $21.20, $8.60, and $5.20. Moreno paid $25.40 and $9.80 and completed the $2 exacta for $313. Orb paid $4.30 for third and completed the $2 trifecta for $1,950. Palace Malice completed the $2 superfecta for $5,098. The time for the 1 1/4 mile race over the fast dirt was 2:02:68.
Photo: Courtesy NYRA.com/Adam Coglianese