Will Take Charge never fired before a massive crowd on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, recording a well-beaten sixth as the 3-5 chalk in the Grade 2 Alysheba, and the classy four-year-old colt will be seeking a measure of redemption when he lines up for Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster H. at Churchill Downs. Last year's champion three-year-old tops a field of nine older horses in the premiere 1 1/8-mile event.
The Foster anchors a dynamite night racing program that features a total of five stakes races. First post is 6 p.m. (EDT) and the Foster is scheduled for 9:39.
Trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Will Take Charge captured the Grade 1 Clark H. at Churchill Downs last fall, rallying to catch Game On Dude on the wire, and the chestnut had finished either first or second in eight straight starts, including a nose runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Classic, prior to his aforementioned clunker. He's bounced back from previous setbacks, recording three consecutive unplaced performances in last year's Triple Crown before coming on strong at Saratoga with a runner-up (to Palace Malice) in the Jim Dandy and a victory in the prestigious Travers Stakes.
"I think we'll just forget it happened and go on to the next one," Lukas said of the Alysheba. "I think we're sitting right on a big one, hopefully. He's had a really good month."
The son of Unbridled's Song has earned more than $3.6 million. He opened 2014 with a pair of respectable efforts, recording seconds in the Donn H. and Santa Anita H., and Will Take Charge returned to the winner's circle with a victory in the Oaklawn H. April 12. The stalker likes to settle in midpack before offering a stout finishing kick.
Assigned the 123-pound highweight, Will Take Charge will break from post No. 4 with Gary Stevens.
Revolutionary finished second in the Oaklawn H. and followed it with his best performance of the year, earning a field- best 112 BRIS Speed rating while rallying last to first in the Pimlico Special. Third in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, the War Pass colt missed the second half of his sophomore season but appears to be coming on strong presently for conditioner Todd Pletcher.
The late runner is one of three horses with an 118-pound impost and Revolutionary can save ground during the early stages from his innermost post with a returning Mike Smith.
Alysheba upsetter Moonshine Mullin also carries 118 pounds. The six-year-old horse has turned the proverbial corner since being claimed for $40,000 last fall, opening this season with a third at Oaklawn Park before recording three consecutive wins versus either allowance or high-priced claiming rivals. Moonshine Mullion carried his improving form forward while stepping up in class last time, digging in gamely to post a half-length decision in front-running style, and the six-year-old will retain the services of Calvin Borel.
The speedster figures to be showing the way along the rail again from post 3.
Multiple Grade 2 winner Departing opened this year with a nice allowance/optional claiming score at Churchill Downs on April 30, drawing off by 1 3/4 lengths, and he'll carry 118 pounds Saturday evening along with regular rider Robby Albarado. Conditioned by Al Stall Jr., the gelding rallied to post wins in the Illinois Derby, Super Derby and West Virginia Derby last season and is a candidate to keep showing more at age four. The son of War Front has captured three of five starts at the nine-furlong distance.
"I was very happy with that first race," Stall said. "I thought he ran well and had a little adversity, which should help him for this race. We're ready and we're excited."
Grade 1 winner Golden Ticket finished a close second in the Alysheba and merits respect for trainer Kenny McPeek in this spot. The hard-trying horse just missed against Palace Malice earlier this season, recording a neck second in the Gulfstream Park H., and the five-year-old owns a 7-1-4-0 under the Twin Spires. Julien Leparoux picks up the mount on the son of Speightstown and Golden Tickets will tote 117 pounds.
Multiple stakes winner Long River invades from New York in search of a Grade 1 victory. Fifth most recently in the Charles Town Classic, the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt will keep Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. Pimlico Special runner-up Prayer for Relief appears in form for trainer Dale Romans and John Velazquez will be up on the multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire.
Last year's Preakness third-placer Mylute has shown an affinity for Churchill Downs in the past but needs to turn things around after a non-threatening fourth in the Alysheba. James Graham takes over the reins for Tom Amoss. Jaguar Paw, an extreme outsider at this level, rounds out the field.