Take Charge Indy, the 3-year-old colt owned by Marengo residents Chuck and Maribeth Sandford, will return to the races in 2013, it was announced Monday.
“We're extremely excited to bring back Take Charge Indy as a 4-year-old, and really look forward to big things to come,” trainer Patrick Byrne said in a statement. “He is just now rounding back into top form, and we believe he can be a leading older horse in 2013.”
Take Charge Indy became a fan favorite in McHenry County this year in the run-up to the Kentucky Derby. His victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 31 opened eyes in the community, giving McHenry County residents hope that a locally owned horse could capture the most prestigious race in the sport.
“We've got emails coming in from everybody," Chuck Sandford told the Northwest Herald after the Florida Derby. “We'll never get caught up. It's a nice problem to have."
Though the horse finished 19th in the Kentucky Derby, and was forced to undergo surgery after the race to remove a bone chip in his front left pastern, community support remained strong.
Take Charge Indy ran well in his two starts after his time on the shelf, finishing third in the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes on Oct. 27 at Keeneland Race Course and second in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 23 at Churchill Downs. It was this most recent start that encouraged the connections to race him as a 4-year-old.
“His Clark performance gives us a lot of confidence going forward,” Byrne said. “He couldn't have bounced out of that race any better than he did.
The decision to bring Take Charge Indy back to the races is actually something of a surprise to many industry observers. Despite the fact the horse has only two wins from nine career starts, he is considered to be an elite stallion prospect, given his regal pedigree. He is a son of A.P. Indy – one of racing’s most prolific sires – and his dam is Take Charge Lady, a three-time Grade 1 stakes winner who is off to a promising start as a broodmare.
That's not to say business considerations weren’t a factor in bringing the horse back. Take Charge Indy could well be one of the leading contenders to capture the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic, North America’s richest horse race. A Breeders’ Cup win would certainly justify an increase to his stud fee.
Elliot Walden, the President & CEO of Winstar Farm – the prestigious Lexington, KY breeding operation where Take Charge Indy will stand upon conclusion of his racing career – believes that the colt can accomplish this difficult feat.
“The prevailing belief by everyone involved is that Take Charge Indy will be even better as a 4-year-old,” Walden said. “We're excited about his potential to come back and be a top-level racehorse next year.”
Byrne mentioned the Feb. 9 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream, site of Take Charge Indy’s signature Florida Derby victory, as an early-season goal.
“We'll go down to Palm Meadows (Training Center) again for the winter and target him for the Donn.”
Though the Sandfords repeatedly have saluted their local support, it is unlikely Take Charge Indy’s 2013 campaign will include a stop at nearby Arlington Park. The Arlington Heights track doesn’t contest the top-level races that the Sandfords will be looking for. Further, the main track at Arlington is not made up of conventional dirt, but rather polytrack – an artificial surface. Indy’s breeding suggests he is best suited to race on dirt.
Still, wherever Take Charge Indy races, the Sandfords are certain to be mindful of their considerable local support.
"My husband goes to OTB out in Rockford," Maribeth Sandford told the Northwest Herald before the Kentucky Derby. "And we're stabled at Arlington Park. Marengo, Barrington – we're really in the heart of horse country."