LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Derby quest of Take Charge Indy and his owners – Marengo residents Chuck and Maribeth Sandford – ended in heartbreaking fashion Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs. Not only did the A.P. Indy-bred colt finish 19th in the field of 20, but there are concerns that he may have suffered an injury during the race.
Take Charge Indy made his move about five-eighths of a mile from the finish under jockey Calvin Borel. He was briefly in fourth, 5½ lengths from leader Bodemeister at the half-mile pole, but he never truly threatened. A quarter of a mile from home, Borel said, Take Charge Indy just stopped – at which point he eased the runner out of the race.
“I knew we were in trouble at the quarter-pole,” the famed jockey said. “He just stopped. He got choked up, and that’s not like him.”
Borel told trainer Patrick Byrne that he believed something was amiss with Take Charge Indy. According to Byrne, the jockey speculated that the horse might have bled, but that turned out not to be the case.
“We scoped him, and it doesn’t appear that he bled,” Byrne said. “Obviously, something went wrong.”
The winner was I’ll Have Another, whose triumph was the first Kentucky Derby victory for both jockey Mario Gutierrez and trainer Doug O’Neill. Gutierrez – a relative neophyte to top-level racing – accomplished the feat in his first Derby mount, in front of a record Kentucky Derby crowd of 165,307. I’ll Have Another went off at 15-1 odds and paid $32.60.
Kentucky Derby No. 138 got off to a rocky start for Take Charge Indy. He appeared to make contact with the horse to his inside, Union Rags. That runner, however, appeared to get the worst of it, while Take Charge Indy seemed to recover fairly quickly. Borel deftly guided Indy to the rail – employing the same strategy he used to win three of the last six Kentucky Derbies – and tracked the leaders from seventh for much of the race. Then Borel decided it was time to take aim at the leaders, but Indy was unable to threaten.
Byrne observed Take Charge Indy having trouble walking on his left front leg shortly after the finish.
“He was walking good when he first got back,” Byrne noted. “But he’s walking a little gingerly [now] on his left front.”
The trainer added that the veterinarian briefly examined Take Charge Indy and was scheduled to give the colt a more thorough evaluation early this week.
Saturday marked the end of a wild, five-week ride for the Sandfords that began March 31 with Take Charge Indy’s conquest of the $1 million Florida Derby. Since then, they’ve spoken about the support they’ve received not only from McHenry County, but the racing community at large.
There certainly was local buzz surrounding Take Charge Indy’s Kentucky Derby debut. A sense of hometown pride brought many out to the off-track betting facility at Nicolino’s in McHenry.
“I read there was a local horse in the race, so you gotta support the locals,” said Rich Korstanje of McHenry.
Mark Davis said he never had bet on a horse race before. The McHenry resident was standing in line to place a bet just before post time – ready to put $50 down.
“I’m feeling lucky, but I probably won’t tomorrow morning,” Davis said, smiling.
A far cry from the fancy hats traditionally worn Saturday at Churchill Downs, employees of the Sandfords’ Union-based Bag Makers Inc. proudly wore blue hats with the Sandfords’ name and Indy’s face embroidered on them.
The employees sat at a large table near the front of the restaurant, eyes glued to the TVs, their hands clenched in anticipation during the 2-minute race.
“We’re still very proud [Indy is] there, and proud to be a part of this,” said Carrie Schmidt of Marengo.
Now, the focus for the Sandfords is no longer on winning the Run for the Roses, but on the soundness of a horse that has captured the hearts of his proud owners and the community at large.
• Northwest Herald reporter Chelsea McDougall contributed to this story.