Will Take Charge utilized a long and grinding run down the middle of the Churchill Downs homestretch to get by Game On Dude in the final 100 yards to win the Grade 1 Clark Handicap. Game On Dude rounded out the all-favorite exacta while Easter Gift and Bourbon Courage finished third and fourth, respectively.
Will Take Charge, a three-year-old colt by Unbridled's Song out of the Dehere mare Take Charge Lady, won his second career Grade 1 race (2013 Travers) and his fourth graded stakes race of 2013, sewing up any and all debate over this year's Eclipse Award for Champion Three-Year-Old Male.
Post time favorite Game On Dude broke slowly from the gate and settled into position a couple of lengths behind early leader Our Double Play through moderate fractions in the early stages. Mike Smith moved Game On Dude to the lead leaving the far turn where he would gain a two to three length advantage over the field as he entered the top of the stretch. But from that point forward it was a case of Will Take Charge chomping away at the lead with each stride in much the same way he ate into Mucho Macho Man's lead in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, although this time he wouldn't taste bitter defeat. Game On Dude could no longer hold off his rival as Will Take Charge put a head in front for the victory as the two reached out with the final strides in the shadow of the wire.
The final order of finish of the Clark wasn't a huge surprise as the crowd correctly tabbed both Will Take Charge and Game On Dude as the prime contenders for win honors. What was a little surprising was the separation between the two favorites on the odds board at post time: Game On Dude loaded into the gate with a price of 6/5, while Will Take Charge was available at a deceptive 2/1. I write "deceptive" because Will Take Charge was actually available at odds greater than 2/1, almost 5/2, but nobody knew it given the fact that 99.9% of totes in North America only display odds in fractions and not in decimals.*
*Had Churchill displayed the odds in decimals, Game On Dude would have been 1.20 and Will Take Charge a much more eye-catching 2.40.
I still can't figure out why Will Take Charge was offered at double the price of Game On Dude. Even if we believe that Game On Dude had a tactical advantage in this race (which certainly appeared to be the case on paper), double the odds is just not in line with the relative chances of each horse. Game On Dude came into the race off a dull effort in the Classic while Will Take Charge ran a winning race in everything but the photo. Even if we anticipated a bit of regression from Will Take Charge from that hard race at Santa Anita, does double the odds of Game On Dude makes sense? It didn't to me, for whatever it's worth.
I think all of us that play the regular basis talk a lot about value in terms of betting and the odds we receive at the windows, but sometimes I think there's a tendency to equate value with "big odds" as opposed to value simply representing a horse offered at odds that don't reflect his true chances of success. Will Takes Charge's price of 2/1 (or, in reality, 5/2) certainly isn't sexy or going to pay the mortgage this month, but if you distilled the Clark down to essentially a two horse race, the price on the winner was absolutely value. And, honestly, the $18.60 for the $2 exacta to the two clear favorites was also a steal.
Some other thoughts on the Clark:
- Will Take Charge has become one of those colts where if you give him a good ride and keep him out of trouble, he's going to give you a good effort each and every time. That wasn't the case this spring when he really struggled in the Triple Crown races (and in the Southwest Stakes), but he's grown up a whole bunch since then.
We'll see what happens with this colt from here on out as the post-race chatter indicates Will Take Charge will be sold in the near future. It would be a crime to not see this colt race in 2014 but, you know... horse racing.
UPDATE: The Daily Racing Form has an article summing up the 2014 racing prospects for Will Take Charge.
- Third place finisher Easter Gift hasn't run all that much in his career (just 14 lifetime starts after the Clark), but he's shown some nice flashes of talent and might have some additional development left in him heading into next year. I'm guessing that nine furlongs might just be the limit for him but he could be a real nice miler next season. I wonder if turf guru Chad Brown might give him a try on the lawn at some point. Sire Hard Spun hits at a decent rate with his offspring running on the lawn and his dam, Angel Gift, won on the grass has two turf winners from two starters.
- Golden Ticket was s no-show, finishing a distant 8th behind the winner. He hasn't won a graded stakes race in quite some time and can count a couple of OC events and the Prairie Meadows Handicap as his three victories in 2013. He can run big on an occasion but he's really an inconsistent horse that I'd never feel comfortable putting my money towards.
- I feel a similar sentiment for Prayer for Relief: a really nice horse that's made a good amount of money in lower tiered races but is clearly not a Grade 1 level horse. There's nothing wrong with that (as I'm sure there are many owners that would love to have a horse that banks $1.5 million in their career), but he just isn't a legit factor when stepping up in class.
- I'm curious to see what the figure calculators come up for the Clark cause I don't think it's going to be a "blow-you-away" kind of figure. There was a bunch of two-turn races at Churchill today including two races at the Clark's nine furlongs: an N1X event in the third race and a $30k maiden claimer in race 7. Below are the fractional comparisons:
- When I looked at the form today and saw that Bourbon Courage has 12 (now 13) lifetime starts I did a quick double take. Is it me, or does it seem like this colt has been running for like three or four years now? Maybe it's because he pops up in stakes race after stakes race.
Below are the payouts, fractions and internal splits for the Clark Handicap:
|7-Will Take Charge||$6.80||$3.00||$2.60|
|1-Game On Dude||$3.40||$2.60|
|Base||Bet||Combo||Payout||Pays to -|