Willis D. Horton's Take Charge Brandi wasn't given much of a chance in Saturday's Grade 1, $1.84 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, as evidenced by her 61-1 odds, but the chestnut miss obviously didn't pay any attention to the toteboard as she wired the 1 1/16-mile contest by a half-length.
"Dr. Bill Caton, who saved (my son) Jeff's life, bet her heavy -- he won't be able to carry it out in a shopping bag. This is the most exciting (win) yet," trainer D. Wayne Lukas grinned after the race.
Jockey Victor Espinoza guided Take Charge Brandi, sending her straight to the front when the gates opened. The duo proceeded to set fractions of :22 1/5, :45 4/5, 1:10 and 1:35 1/5 while chased on the backstretch by fellow 52-1 longshot Hennythelovepenny. That one faded after six furlongs, leaving the way clear for By the Moon to take up pressing duties after stalking in third while three wide early.
Take Charge Brandi was still in command entering the lane, with By the Moon putting in her bid before weakening in the stretch. A wall of horses advanced on Take Charge Brandi nearing the wire, but the Lukas pupil dug deep and prevailed while stopping the clock in 1:41 4/5 over the fast Santa Anita dirt.
"Wayne just told me to let her run and I did that," Espinoza said. "I hit her once and she didn't seem to like it, so I didn't hit her anymore and I just let her do her thing."
"I thought she had a great week and today I thought we could be a factor -- not that we would win it, but that we would do very swell," admitted Lukas, who earned his sixth Juvenile Fillies win and record 20th overall Breeders' Cup victory.
As the longest shot on the board, Take Charge Brandi rewarded her faithful, but few, backers with a win payout of $125.40 while starting a $1 trifecta that paid $11,309 and a $1 superfecta worth $97,620. Finishing out those wagers were 5-1 Top Decile, who rallied wide from midpack to take second by a half-length over 15-1 Wonder Gal with 13-1 Feathered another nose back in fourth.
"We had a good trip," Rosie Napravnik said of Top Decile's run. "I got through the first turn without losing much ground, but I had to go about three-wide on the second turn. I think the track was playing a little differently today than it was yesterday and she was running against the bias. She finished well. She's a good filly."
"She ran her eyeballs out. Rosie did a great job," praised Bill Lawrence, Top Decile's co-owner. "You want to win these races, but we're happy we have a nice filly. She's done nothing wrong. To be able to make that kind of move from the outside and go that many more lengths, you've got to be happy. You want to win these races, but there was nothing wrong with that effort."
"I am very proud of her! She really showed she belongs with this caliber of horses," trainer Leah Gyarmati applauded Wonder Gal. "I think speed is a huge advantage here and closers are at a distinct disadvantage, yet in spite of that she came running."
Danette followed by a half-length in fifth and was trailed by Puca, who was blocked and forced to steady in the lane before being wrapped up on by jockey Joel Rosario. Completing the order of finish were Conquest Eclipse, By the Moon, Majestic Presence, 3-1 favorite Angela Renee, Cristina's Journey and Hennythelovepenny.
"(Angela Renee) got creamed from both sides leaving the gate and got shuffled back going into the first turn. She never really got into a rhythm. The way the track's playing, it's hard to make up ground," trainer Todd Pletcher dismissed the favorite's finish.
Take Charge Brandi didn't have the credentials to even factor in the Breeders' Cup after being defeated by double-digit odds in her past three races. The chestnut daughter of Giant's Causeway captured her debut at Churchill Downs on June 22 and ran second when shipped to Saratoga for the Grade 2 Schuylerville, but was unable to factor in her next three graded efforts.
The Kentucky-bred miss was fifth in both the Grade 2 Adirondack at the Spa and Churchill's Grade 2 Pocahontas, beaten 13 lengths and 11 lengths, respectively. She showed up last out in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland and was once again distanced, finishing eighth while 11 lengths behind the winner.
Despite all that, Lukas still gave his filly a shot at Breeders' Cup glory and Take Charge Brandi delivered to improve her record to 6-2-1-0. Bred by Charming Syndicate, she was purchased for $435,000 as a Keeneland September yearling by Horton and has more than earned that back by catapulting her career earnings to $1,170,120 with this score.
Take Charge Brandi is out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Charming and counts as her second dam multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Take Charge Lady. That mare has garnered fame both on and off track by producing fellow Grade 1-scoring millionaires Take Charge Indy and Will Take Charge. That latter colt was honored as the champion three-year-old male of 2013 after just missing by a nose in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic.
This female family is also responsible for another Breeders' Cup winner in Chamberlain Bridge, who captured the 2010 Turf Sprint and amassed more than $1.9 million while racing.
Click here for the transcript from the winning connections.