Travers Stakes winner Will Take Charge found room along the rail and cruised to victory Saturday in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing. The 1 1/8-mile stakes was the co-feature with the $1 million Cotillion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
Will Take Charge, owned by Willis Horton, was ridden for the second straight race by Luis Saez for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The 78-year-old Lukas had never saddled a winner of the Pennsylvania Derby.
Sent off as the 2-1 favorite in the eight-horse field with seven betting interests, Will Take Charge broke from the outside post and was sitting fifth on the outside, just a few lengths off pacesetter and Travers runner-up Moreno through the backstretch.
Coming off the final turn, Moreno was joined on the lead by Fury Kapcori, Romansh and Battier. The favorite, right behind the top four horses, moved to the inside entering the stretch.
Will Take Charge found a big opening near the rail and was able to drive past his rivals through the stretch. The big chestnut colt went on to post a 2 1/4- length win over Moreno.
Battier finished third followed by Transparent, Fury Kapcori, Romansh, Speak Logistics and Java's War.
Will Take Charge stopped the timer at 1:49.28 on a fast track.
"It wasn't exactly like I had written it up," Lukas said. "Our rider rides well, he's smart and he rode well. He saw that hole, he took advantage of it and I'm real proud of him for doing that. Because, I told him to come up the middle of the racetrack, frankly."
The 3-year-old captured his second straight $1 million stakes for a $562,000 pay day. The colt has earned $1,827,371 with five wins in 13 career starts.
Will Take Charge began the year by winning the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Remaining at the Arkansas track, the colt finished sixth in the Southwest, but came back to win the Rebel Stakes.
Lukas then trained him up to the Kentucky Derby where he finished eighth. Two weeks later in the Preakness, Will Take Charge was seventh and then 10th in the Belmont Stakes.
He won the Travers at 9-1 on the tote board after his second-place finish behind Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.
Will Take Charge paid $6.60, $3.80 and $2.80. Moreno returned $3.80 and $2.80, and Battier paid $6.80 to show.