In news that did not surprise long-time racing fans, champion juvenile filly Take Charge Brandi was confirmed Wednesday as being under consideration for the $750,000 Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 14.
An appearance in the signature prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby comes as little shock as the filly is trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who is no stranger to running fillies in the Kentucky Derby or its preps. He saddled the last Derby-winning filly, Winning Colors, in 1988, and has started three others in the Run for the Roses.
However, Take Charge Brandi’s participation in the Rebel is far from certain. She might still point for the $150,000 Honeybee against fillies, on March 7, as originally planned.
“I’ve looked at all the figures and times, and we’re talking about a $750,000 race compared to a purse of $150,000,” owner Willis Horton told Blood-Horse. “Even if we run third, we still get more money than we would if she won the other race.”
Mathematical error aside, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at this possible move in relation to what’s happened in the past. While a complete list of all fillies Lukas has ever run in Kentucky Derby preps is not readily available, we can at least compare Take Charge Brandi with his other filly Derby starters.
In 1984, Lukas started the favored entry of Althea and Life’s Magic. Althea, the 1983 juvenile champion, was entered in the Arkansas Derby having beaten males in two of three attempts as a two-year-old, including wins in the Del Mar Futurity by 6 1/2 lengths and the Hollywood Juvenile Championship by 10 lengths.
Life’s Magic went unplaced in the Santa Anita Derby in her final Kentucky Derby prep, but her presence there didn’t seem too fanciful given she was a nose second in the Norfolk and third in the Hollywood Futurity against males the previous fall.
Four years later, Winning Colors was making her first start against males when she entered the Santa Anita Derby. However, she was coming off an eight-length demolition of the Santa Anita Oaks. Left in her wake were Jeanne Jones, who was unlucky not to have won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies the previous November, and Goodbye Halo, the authoritative winner of the Demoiselle and Hollywood Starlet who had beat Winning Colors by a neck in the Las Virgenes.
Finally we come to Serena’s Song in 1995. A close second in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship in her only try against males at two, she was a near-champion who fell a head short of stablemate Flanders in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She made her final Kentucky Derby prep in the Jim Beam (now Spiral) at Turfway Park, where she was an odds-on favorite after sweeping Santa Anita’s major three-year-old filly stakes.
Althea and Life’s Magic looked like decent prospects in a Kentucky Derby prep based on their previous form against males. Winning Colors and Serena’s Song looked like decent prospects after seemingly running out of competition against fellow fillies. Take Charge Brandi has never faced males, so we can only really compare her to the position Winning Colors and Serena’s Song were in.
Has Take Charge Brandi really run out of competition against fillies? One could argue, perhaps, that she has at her Oaklawn Park base. However, she didn’t exactly earn an “A” on the eye test for her narrow victory in the ungraded Martha Washington over the multiple stakes-placed Sarah Sis. Nor did she dominate her peers during her championship campaign. Indeed, she seems to have been more lucky than very good the past several months.
It’s easy to get too caught up in what this all means. Yes, her connections would undoubtedly enjoy having a filly that could compete effectively in the Kentucky Derby. Do they believe they have one? They more than likely will try and find out, and as Willis Horton has noted the pay scale between the Rebel and Honeybee is quite large.
From what I’ve witnessed from my seat on the backbenches, Take Charge Brandi would seem better served going for the Honeybee rather than the more difficult Rebel hornets’ nest. If her connections ultimately choose the latter, though, it would probably be no less useful a prep for the Fantasy as the Honeybee.
(Take Charge Brandi photo: Coady Photography)