A clear second to subsequent Grade 2 Risen Star winner El Padrino in a January 29 allowance at Gulfstream Park, Take Charge Indy could also make a successful jump into the winner's circle against graded company when he takes on 11 rivals in Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.
Trained by Pat Byrne, best known for conditioning the likes of Awesome Again, Favorite Trick and Countess Diana, Take Charge Indy is a regally-bred son of A.P. Indy out of the multiple Grade 1 heroine Take Charge Lady. A winner at first asking at Arlington Park last summer, the dark bay next finished second in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity before running fourth and fifth, respectively, in a pair of Grade 1 events, the Breeders' Futurity and Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Take Charge Indy showed vast improvement in the aforementioned allowance in his 2012 debut. Pressing from the start, he eventually opened up a three-length lead before getting run down by El Padrino. Though two lengths behind that rival at the finish, Take Charge Indy was nearly 14 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Argentine Tango. Calvin Borel, who rode Street Sense to victory in the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby, retains the mount.
The powerhouse Todd Pletcher stable will be represented by the undefeated Spring Hill Farm, who broke his maiden by more than six lengths on January 14 at Gulfstream and followed up with a 1 1/4-length allowance score over the same track on February 11. An odds-on choice in both outings, the son of Smart Strike has never been headed nor has he raced around two turns previously. Javier Castellano has the call.
Watch Me Go upset the 2011 Tampa Bay Derby off a third-place effort in the main local prep, the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. Among those exiting the February 4 Davis are the winner, Battle Hardened, runner-up Prospective, fourth-placer Ravelo's Boy, and sixth-placer Fox Rules. Still a maiden when he entered the gate, Battle Hardened made a four-wide rally from slightly off the pace to graduate by 1 1/4 lengths. The son of Giant's Causeway is trained by Eddie Kenneally and will be ridden again by Julien Leparoux.
Prospective, who adds blinkers for the Tampa Bay Derby, broke from post 11 in the Davis and made a nice rally to grab place honors by a nose. He had previously won the Grade 3 Grey at Woodbine over Polytrack as well as the seven-furlong Pasco on January 14 over the Tampa strip.
Ravelo's Boy, along with recent maiden winner Twin, each have 12 starts under their belts. Both will be longshots to turn the tables on Battle Hardened and Prospective, as will Fox Rules, who has been unplaced in all four stakes attempts.
Invading from Louisiana is Cajun Charlie, who enters off three straight victories, including two in Louisiana-bred stakes by open margins at Delta Downs. A more interesting candidate perhaps is the Dale Romans-trained Cozzetti, who romped by five lengths in the slop in his lone previous outing on dirt. The gray has attempted to follow in the footsteps of his sire, Cozzene, in trying turf three times, all to no avail.
The remainder of the Tampa Bay Derby lineup includes Golden Ticket, a two-length maiden winner at Gulfstream last out; Chief Energy, who debuts for trainer Jimmy Toner in his first start since August; and Tell All You Know, a one-turn maiden and allowance winner at Tampa.