By TIM REYNOLDS, Associated Press
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Calvin Borel and Patrick Byrne had the same thought entering the Florida Derby. If Take Charge Indy could get out in front with a lead, good things were going to happen.
How right they were.
Take Charge Indy earned his chance at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, winning the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby at a speed-favoring Gulfstream Park — and knocking off consensus Triple Crown favorite Union Rags to get there. Borel and Take Charge Indy led nearly every step of the way, holding off longshot Reveron to win what traditionally is one of the top prep races entering the Run for the Roses.
"I'm still in shock over winning the race," owner Chuck Sandford said. "We knew we had a nice, top-bred colt who just screams 'racehorse.' But someday, he's just got to get out and do it."
That day was Saturday.
Sent off at nearly 8-1 odds, Take Charge Indy went to the front right away, saved space with Borel — remember, he's not called "Bo-Rail" for nothing — keeping the colt close to the inside, and had more than enough to hold off a field of seven challengers in the stretch.
Borel has been aboard three of the last five Kentucky Derby winners. He sees no reason why he can't go 4-for-6.
"It's not how far he'll go," Borel said. "It's how fast he can go, and just keep going. I think he can go a lot faster than this."
Take Charge Indy finished the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.79, returning $17.40, $9 and $3.60. Reveron paid $18.40 and $4, while Union Rags — the 2-5 favorite, who was down to 1-9 on the toteboards not long before post time — paid $2.10.
"Just bad luck. ... Nobody paid attention to the winner, they just let him go," said Julien Leparoux, Union Rags' jockey. "I guess they just target the favorite."
Union Rags reared up after his van ride to Gulfstream on Saturday, then had a shoe issue in the paddock just before heading onto the track. Trainer Michael Matz said that didn't affect his horse's showing.
And while Union Rags likely took a blow to his status as Triple Crown favorite, Matz — who won both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby with Barbaro in 2006 — still is hopeful he has a horse that can be at its best when it gets to Churchill Downs.
"If he comes out well out of this race, we'll be at the Derby," Matz said.
Union Rags had won four of his five career starts coming in, a defeat by a head in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile the only blemish on his record before now. Meanwhile, Take Charge Indy had just one career win before Saturday, and that was in a $23,000 maiden race last July.
Still, his connections had plenty of confidence. Take Charge Indy had already raced in three graded stakes — two of them Grade 1's — and finished second to El Padrino when Borel got his first shot aboard the colt at Gulfstream in an allowance race on Jan. 29.
"We knew he liked the racetrack," Byrne said. "We're not surprised."
Sandford, who got into the horse game as an owner a little over two years ago, already had reservations for his family to be at this year's Kentucky Derby, the only question entering Saturday being if Take Charge Indy would join them.
Asked and answered.
"Calvin has been the perfect answer," Sandford said.
El Padrino, Neck 'n Neck, Fort Loudon, News Pending and Z Camelot completed the eight finishers. Bartolome was scratched Saturday morning because of a bruised foot.
The Florida Derby was one of six graded stakes races on Saturday's card.
Heavily favored Grace Hall ($4.40) won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks, taking off at the top of the stretch and being ridden out to prevail by 5-1/2 lengths. Awesome Maria ($2.20) won the Grade 3 Rampart, Fort Larned ($26.20) took the Grade 3 Skip Away, Corporate Jungle ($6) won the Grade 3 Appleton and Hit It Rich ($7.40) won the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes.
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