Will Take Charge (near side) upstages his rivals to win the Travers StakesPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Lukas takes charge of Travers Stakes thriller
Report: USA, Saturday
Saratoga: Travers Stakes (Grade 1) 1m2f, dirt, 3yo
LEGENDARY trainer D Wayne Lukas saddled Will Take Charge (Luis Saez) to upstage more fancied rivals as he beat stubborn front-running longshot Moreno on the nod to win the $1 million Travers Stakes.
Kentucky Derby winner Orb just held off Belmont hero Palace Malice to take third in the Saratoga highlight, in which much-vaunted Verrazano was a bitter disappointment, beating only a couple home after being sent off a well-backed 8-5 favourite.
Now in the veteran stages of a glorious career, Lukas is enjoying an Indian summer after several fallow seasons, having already landed this year's Preakness Stakes with Oxbow.
He has talked up Will Take Charge ad nauseum this year, and the son of Unbridled's Song finally justified the hype when nailing Moreno by a nose at the wire.
"It feels pretty good," said Lukas, 77, who had won the Travers twice before, with Corporate Report (1991) and Thunder Gulch (1995). "They were reminding me it's been a long time between drinks, but when they come like this, they come double."
Beaten a length by Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy Stakes on his previous start, Will Take Charge was unplaced in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
He was sent off a 9-1 chance for the Travers, where he was ridden for the first time 21-year-old Panamanian rider Luis Saez, who was landing his first Grade 1 success.
As expected, 31-1 chance Moreno went straight to the lead, where he received so little hassle that he was able to set leisurely fractions (24.40s, 48.88s, 1.13.43s).
Haskell winner Verrazano sat outside him in third, only to bomb out of contention on the far turn, where Orb looked the likely winner as he moved up on the inner to take the lead entering the stretch.
But the Kentucky Derby winner faltered, allowing Moreno to regain the advantage - only for Will Take Charge, who had raced in mid-division, to snatch victory in a time of 2m02.68s.
Orb three-quarters of a length away in third, just ahead of Palace Malice, who may have been an unlucky horse, having broken "really, really, really bad" according to his rider Mike Smith.
Todd Pletcher trains both Palace Malice and Verrazano. "Verrazano got a beautiful trip," he said. "He got exactly where we thought he'd be; the only difference was we thought he'd be stalking Palice Malice. Mike said he missed the break. He slipped behind and dropped way back, not his characteristic spot.
"Mike thought he was much the best - the break killed him. It's horseracing. We would have liked to have won it, but we've had a great meet and we're not going to cry about it. We'll regroup and try again."
Also on Saturday:
Sweet Lulu (far side) and jockey Julien Leparoux strike in the Test StakesPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Saratoga: Test Stakes (Grade 1) 7f, dirt, 3yo fillies
An impressive victory here on her Graded-stakes for Californian visitor Sweet Lulu (Jerry Hollendorfer/Julien Leparoux), who re-rallied inside the final furlong to repel Wildcat Lily by a head in this $500,000 contest.
Despite her inexperience, the daughter of Mr Greeley was sent off 9-5 favourite on only the fourth start of her life - and her first on dirt after three all-weather victories out west.
Sweet Lulu completed the 7f in 1m23.45s as she became the 6,479th winner of her veteran trainer's long career.
Capo Bastone and Irad Ortiz triumph in the Grade 1 King's Bishop StakesPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Saratoga: King's Bishop Stakes (Grade 1) 7f, dirt, 3yo
Capo Bastone (Todd Pletcher/Irad Ortiz), at 28-1 the outsider of his trainer's three runners, ran down the speedy Mentor Cane inside the final furlong for a shock victory, stopping the clock at 1m22.22s.
Although the longshot won going away by two lengths, the runner-up deserves credit for a gallant effort given that a vicious pace tear-up fried the well-fancied Let Em Shine, whom he stalked through the early running.
Saratoga: Ballston Spa Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, turf, 3yo+ f/m
Former Irish-trained Laughing (Alan Goldberg/Jose Lezcano) and Pianist raced one-two the whole way around, with the former finishing just the better to complete a Graded-stakes hat-trick by a neck.