Classic trials apart, in the U.S. the championship-defining contests for straight 3-year-olds are usually the three Triple Crown events plus the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) and the Travers Stakes (gr. I). Prior to the weekend, the first four events had taken place and had been won by four different horses: Orb (Kentucky Derby, gr. I), Oxbow (Preakness Stakes, gr. I), Palace Malice (Belmont Stakes, gr. I), and Verrazano (Haskell). So, with all but the sidelined Oxbow lining up for the Travers, we had a chance of clarity being brought to a confused picture. What we got, however, was further obfuscation as Will Take Charge—who contested all three Triple Crown events without finishing better than seventh—caught the courageous Moreno in the last jump, with Orb third, Palace Malice fourth, and Verrazano off-the-board.
Whatever else one might want to say about Will Take Charge, he is certainly tough. Winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes (back in January) and the Rebel Stakes (gr. III) on the way to the Triple Crown, he survived that cauldron to produce his two best efforts—he prepped for the Travers with a good second to Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II)—in mid-summer. Toughness, or perhaps more accurately, durability, is not a characteristic frequently associated with Will Take Charge's sire, the recently-deceased Unbridled's Song, whose offspring have frequently fallen into the "fast-but-fragile" category. Unbridled's Song, who was 20-years-old in 2013, is actually having one of his best seasons, and in addition to Will Take Charge is also represented by grade I-winning older horses Cross Traffic and Graydar.
Much credit for Will Take Charge's resilience should probably be given to his dam, Take Charge Lady. She made 22 starts over three seasons, 20 in stakes events, and she won 11 of those races. Eight of her victories came in graded stakes, including the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) and back-to-back renewals of the Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I), and she was also runner-up in four grade I races including the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). In addition to Will Take Charge, she is also dam of Take Charge Indy (TrueNicks), who won the Florida Derby (gr. I) last year and the Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) this term, but suffered a career-ending injury in the Monmouth Cup Stakes (gr. II). Take Charge Lady is out of the excellent producer Felicita, also dam of the stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed performers Commendation and Eventail (herself dam of multiple graded stakes winner Straight Story).
Will Take Charge (TrueNicks A++) and Graydar are two of the three stakes winners sired by Unbridled's Song from only seven starters out of mares by Dehere. This will make the pair rather intriguing prospects with mares descending from Storm Cat—a strain that is found in several good Unbridled's Song winners—as both Dehere and Storm Cat are products of the Northern Dancer/Secretariat cross. We're equally intrigued by the fact that Will Take Charge's second dam is a daughter of Rubiano, and not just because that horse was the first Eclipse Award winner from a Pedigree Consultants-planned mating. Rubiano was an example of a combination that had considerable success through the 1980s (and that continued to thrive in an extended version thereafter), that of Fappiano over mares carrying In Reality. The combination of the duo was one with an obvious attraction, as it brought together the seminal Florida stallion Rough'n Tumble through the exceptional runners Dr. Fager (broodmare sire of Fappiano) and My Dear Girl (champion 2-year-old filly and dam of In Reality). In addition to Rubiano, the pattern produced Fappiano stallion sons Unbridled, his brother Cahill Road (like Rubiano, by Fappiano with a second dam by In Reality), and his three-quarter brother Pentelicus, as well as Piccolino and South American sire Speakerphone (out of mares by In Reality). Unbridled, Cahill Road, and Pentelicus were all also inbred to Dr. Fager's dam, Aspidistra, and when we add to the mix Quiet American (TrueNicks,SRO) (by Fappiano, and inbred 3x2 to Dr. Fager and 4x3 to Fappiano's third dam, Cequillo), we see that we're presented with numerous options to duplicate Fappiano through related strains (and that doesn't take into account daughters of Fappiano with similar backgrounds). Click here to see a hypothetical mating for Will Take Charge showing some of these patterns.
Fappiano has only just begun to arrive at the point in pedigrees where those with higher-end stock are likely to consider duplicating him, but there are signs that the pattern is beginning to have an impact. There were at least seven stakes winners with a Fappiano duplication in the 2008 foal crop, and Will Take Charge is one of at least six current 3-year-old stakes winners inbred to Fappiano. There are certainly going to be plenty of good opportunities to duplicate Fappiano through high-class sources over the next few years, with a slew of sons of Unbridled's Song in the early stages of their stud careers; Bernardini (TrueNicks) (dam by Quiet American, and already sire of undefeated Algorithms (TrueNicks) out of a mare by a son of Fappiano); War Front (TrueNicks) (out of a mare by Rubiano, and sire of $1.4 million-earner Warning Flag from a daughter of Unbridled's Song); Tapit (TrueNicks) (out of a three-quarter sister to Rubiano); and Midnight Lute (TrueNicks,SRO) (a grandson of Quiet American whose first stakes winner was Pedigree Consultants-recommended mating Midnight Ballet, who is out of a mare by Unbridled's Song).
Equally confusing as the Travers from the point of view of the 3-year-old sprint division was the Foxwoods King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I), which drew an unwieldy field of 14 and saw the resultant scramble provide a first stakes win for Capo Bastone, whose previous best efforts had been thirds in the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Capo Bastone is the third stakes winner, and first graded stakes winner, to emerge from the first crop of Street Cry (TrueNicks)'s excellent sprinting son Street Boss (TrueNicks,SRO) (who also has current 2-year-old stakes winner Silvertonguedtommy in his second crop). Capo Bastone's dam, Fight to Love, is a daughter to the versatile runner Fit to Fight (winner of the old New York "Handicap Triple") out of a mare by Secretariat. This means she's inbred 3x3 to the similarly-bred Secretariat (Bold Ruler/Princequillo) and Chieftain (sire of Fit to Fit, and by Bold Ruler with a second dam by Princequillo). By odd coincidence, both Will Take Charge and Capo Bastone stem from the same immediate family. as Director and Quadruple are the fourth dams of Will Take Charge and Capo Bastone, respectively.
We noted Will Take Charge as proving tough and durable, but on either score he's got some way to go match Game On Dude, who took his earnings past the $5 million mark with an annihilation of the Pacific Classic (gr. I) field. This was the 15th win in 27 starts for the son of Awesome Again (TrueNicks), and his seventh in grade I company. Game On Dude's dam, the stakes-winning Worldly Pleasure, is by another "iron horse" in Devil His Due. The family goes back to the foundation mare Crafty Princess via Game On Dude's fourth dam, Princess Fager, a Dr. Fager half sister to the dam of good sire Crafty Prospector.