Derby the goal for Take Charge Brandi

Profile Picture: James Scully

December 16th, 2014

Take Charge Brandi did everything asked of her over a six-week span, capping a three-race graded stakes-winning spree with a gutsy score in last Saturday’s Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos, and established herself as the presumptive two-year-old filly champion. She’ll become the 25th horse to earn an Eclipse Award under the care trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

But don’t be misled into thinking that the Kentucky Oaks is a goal next spring. That's strictly a back-up plan if she can't qualify for the Kentucky Derby field.

We’re talking about Lukas and the Kentucky Derby fire still burns brightly in the 79-year-old Hall of Famer. His four Derby wins are tied for second most and he’s diligently chasing all-time leader Ben Jones (six).

He summed it up best when receiving the Eclipse Award of Merit last year, “We’re coming after you with a vengeance.”

That’s the sentiment of a man who has run four fillies in the Kentucky Derby, including 1988 heroine Winning Colors. The Lukas-trained filly entry of Althea and Life’s Magic was favored in 1984.

It’s a completely different mindset from the one employed in recent years by the connections of Untapable and Rachel Alexandra, extremely talented fillies who were never under consideration for the main event. I think Lukas would label them as missed opportunities, given the ease of their Oaks’ wins and the fact that both earned better BRIS Speed ratings than the Derby winner a day later.

It’s all about the Kentucky Derby for the legendary conditioner.

As far as Lukas is concerned, he could already have six wins. A clerical error denied Preakness winner Codex the opportunity to run in the 1980 Derby because he wasn’t nominated and Proud Citizen finished second in the 2005 edition to War Emblem, who was being pointed toward the Preakness before Thoroughbred Corp. and Bob Baffert swooped in at the last minute to purchase and redirect him to Churchill Downs.

Take Charge Brandi checks the pedigree box for the 1 ¼-mile Run for the Roses – she’s by Giant’s Causeway and is out of a Seeking the Gold mare that is a half-sister to champion Will Take Charge’s dam – and her numbers are certainly respectable, earning triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Starlet.

She’ll be given every chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.