Champion Take Charge Brandi returns to competition on Saturday when facing nine fellow sophomore fillies in the $500,000 Test S. (G1).
The D. Wayne Lukas pupil was overlooked during the early part of her juvenile season, but burst upon the scene when upsetting the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at 61-1. While some called that a fluke, the chestnut miss went on to add the Delta Downs Princess (G3) and Starlet S. (G1) to her resume. That proved enough to beat out unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) heroine Lady Eli for an Eclipse Award as the champion two-year-old filly of 2014.
Take Charge Brandi wasn’t given much of a break before beginning her 2015 campaign, but still gutted out a head victory in the Martha Washington S. on January 31 at Oaklawn Park.
Next up for the talented filly was a confrontation with champion two-year-old male American Pharoah in the Rebel S. (G2), but a non-displaced chip in her right knee knocked her out of that race and on the sidelines. It also prevented her from running in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 1.
Lukas took his time getting the Willis D. Horton colorbearer back into shape, and that gave the Take Charge Branid a much-deserved break as well. She’s been at Saratoga since mid-July and has posted four works, including a pair of bullet moves, at the Spa.
“She’s right on target,” Lukas stated. “She’s had a good work pattern and is doing really well. She’s strong. She’s had some very good works, so she’s had enough. She should run good.”
Take Charge Brandi will be cutting back to less than a mile in the seven-furlong Test for the first time since finishing fifth in last year’s Adirondack S. (G2) at Saratoga, but Lukas doesn’t appear worried.
“Seven-eighths (of a mile) is not ideal for her. I think she’s a better two-turn filly, but the distance is probably better for a comeback race,” he explained.
“I don’t think she’s lost any form. I like what I see,” the Hall of Famer added. “I think she’s every bit as good as she was when we ended up last year on her.”
Take Charge Brandi will come up against some familiar foes in the Test, including Wonder Gal, Angela Renee and Cavorting.
The former is seeking just her second career victory in the Test after dominating her maiden debut in the Lynbrook S. last July at Belmont Park. Wonder Gal has actually never run in anything but stakes, with her races since the Lynbrook coming in all graded contests.
The Leah Gyarmati pupil has done well for herself, placing in four Grade 1s including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies while just a length behind Take Charge Brandi. She’s exiting a runner-up effort in the Mother Goose S. and a third-place run in Acorn S.
Grade 1 heroine Angela Renee is also looking to get back on a winning track. The Todd Pletcher trainee has dropped her last two following a runner-up effort in the Ashland S. (G1), including a first turf try in the one-mile Wild Applause S. at Belmont on June 14.
“She’s been very sharp,” Pletcher said. “We’re looking forward to backing her up to seven-eighths and seeing how she handles that. We’re happy with the way she’s training.
“We were frustrated a little bit with the Ashland. She looked like she turned for home a winner and just kind of faded a little bit the last part of it,” the horseman added. “We tried her on turf because I thought she breezed pretty well on it but she didn’t really fire when we ran her.”
While Take Charge Brandi, Wonder Gal and Angela Renee are all cutting back in distance, Cavorting will be stretching out to seven furlongs after taking the six-furlong Jersey Girl S. on June 5 at Belmont.
“We’ve been pointing for this since June 7. She’s doing great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin noted. “It’s a Grade 1, and we feel like she’s a Grade 1 filly. We always thought she wanted longer, but she’s run very well short. I would think seven furlongs is right up her alley. We’re excited.”
Sprinting specialist Irish Jasper brings a three-race win streak, including the Victory Ride S. (G3) and Miss Preakness S. (G3), into the Test while By the Moon is looking to rebound off her neck second in the Acorn S. (G1) last out.
Completing the Test field are Victory Rider third-placer Kathballu; stakes debuter So You Say; and Bar of Gold and Pleasant Tales, who were most recently fourth in the Delaware Oaks (G3) and Mother Goose, respectively.
Photo 1: Take Charge Brandi (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)
Photo 2: Cavorting (NYRA/Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Photo 3: Irish Jasper (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)