Game On Dude and Will Take Charge were assigned high weights for next Friday's 140th running of the $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.
The Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude, a three-time Grade 1 winner this year, was assigned 126 pounds by Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman, three pounds more than the three-year-old Will Take Charge, winner of the Travers and nose runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Because he's a three-year-old facing older males, Will Take Charge received a three-pound break in the weights, according to Huffman.
Baffert said Game On Dude would work over the weekend at Santa Anita. He'll consider that work and the weight assignments in making a final decision on the trip to Churchill Downs for the Clark.
"They've weighted him like he's Horse of the Year, so I guess that's a compliment," Baffert said by telephone. "I'm glad Huffman isn't down on the horse like everyone else is."
Game On Dude won his first five starts this year and was the Horse of the Year favorite before a disappointing ninth as the 8-5 choice in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He remains on the short list of contenders for the Eclipse Award for top older male.
Baffert said that if all goes well in coming days, Game On Dude would ship to Kentucky on Wednesday. The Hall of Fame trainer plans to be in attendance on race day.
Will Take Charge, who would make a strong case for champion three-year-old honors with a victory in the Grade 1 Clark, was on the Churchill Downs track the instant it opened at 6 a.m. (EST) on Friday for his final work.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of Unbridled's Song breezed five furlongs in 1:01 over a good racing surface to complete his major training for the Clark. Regular exercise rider Rudy Quevelos was up for the move, which ranked as seventh-fastest of 23 at the distance on a misty and cool morning.
A four-time stakes winner this season, including Grade 2 scores in the Pennsylvania Derby and Rebel Stakes, Will Take Charge recorded fractional splits of :12 2/5, :24, and :35 2/5 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:16 2/5.
A weather forecast that included rain and tumbling temperatures over the next three days prompted Lukas to move the work up a day from Saturday to Friday. The Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner was happy with the result.
"He just ran," Lukas said. "It's 27 days from the Breeders' Cup to the Clark, so he really didn't need a lot."
The work made Friday another good day in what the Hall of Fame conditioner described as a strong week for the improving colt. Will Take Charge finished fast to just miss in a photo finish against Mucho Macho Man in the Classic at Santa Anita.
"He's really thriving and it's kind of surprising," Lukas said. "I thought maybe the Breeders' Cup would set him back and we might have to give him a month or so to fill up, but that hasn't been the case. I don't know if it's because he's home here and he's eating better, but he's really had a good three or four weeks."
With a week remaining before the Clark, the roster of known probable starters for the race includes (with weights): Golden Ticket (120), Prayer for Relief (118), Bourbon Courage (117), Easter Gift (116) and Finnegans Wake (116). Jaguar Paw (115) is considered possible.