By Andrew Caulfield
“Selling Take Charge Indy was one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in my time as a syndicate manager, but, ultimately, we have to blend the passion we have for our horses with business principles for our shareholders.”
That was the quote from Elliott Walden, the WinStar president, when it was announced that the 2012 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy had been sold to the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) in late November 2016, after three years at WinStar.
“Sometimes, difficult decisions like this arise for that philosophy,” Walden added. “The KRA has had strong interest in the horse, and they simply made an offer that was too good to turn down.”
As Walden clearly understood, there was a chance that the decision to sell Take Charge Indy could backfire and the early months of 2018 suggest that his worst fears may be justified. The TDN‘s 2018 list of leading northern hemisphere second-crop sires places Take Charge Indy well clear of the other American-based stallions which started out in 2014. This year alone he has been represented by four first-crop black-type winners, taking his total to five from a crop of 103 live foals. Two of them–Take Charge Paula and Noble Indy–have won at Graded level. Altogether he has an impressive total of nine black-type performers from his 2015 crop.
The WinStar team could be forgiven for being tempted by the Korean offer. Having attracted 145 mares in 2014 and 151 in his second season, Take Charge Indy had found things more difficult in his third year, when his book fell to 103 even though his fee had been reduced to $17,500, from its original $20,000.
Perhaps the most important statistic was that Take Charge Indy’s first-crop yearlings had achieved a median price of only $22,000 and his average price of just over $40,000 fell well short of the figures achieved by such as Orb, Shanghai Bobby, Oxbow and Paynter who had all been similarly priced at $20,000 or $25,000. Take Charge Indy’s 2016 weanlings had also struggled at the sales, with a $12,500 median and an average of just under $18,000.
The size of his 2016 book and his sales statistics suggested that Take Charge Indy would find the 2017 season difficult, even though his fee had been reduced again, this time to $15,000. In the circumstances, the Korean offer was too tempting.
Something else which had to be taken into account was Take Charge Indy’s ability. He may have become a Grade I winner in the Florida Derby, but exactly how good was he? He had won only three of his 14 starts, with a single victory in each of his three years in training. As a juvenile, when he was second in the GIII Arlington-Washington Futurity, he was rated 113 on the Experimental, 13lbs below Hansen and Union Rags. At three he received a figure of 115 on the World Thoroughbred Rankings, which placed him 10lbs below the top-ranked I’ll Have Another. Then at four, when he won the GII Alysheba S. by six lengths, he was rated 116 in a year when the top American horse, Wise Dan, was rated 129.
In other words, Take Charge Indy was a consistently solid performer, but one who fell short of the very top level. Of course plenty of similar horses have gone on to become important stallions and there were other weapons in Take Charge Indy’s armory which could compensate for those few pounds which separated him from the elite performers.
In the summer of 2015, I was commissioned to write summaries of the WinStar stallions for a publication timed to coincide with the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. It certainly wasn’t difficult to find plenty of positives about Take Charge Indy, as the next few paragraphs show:
“Very few stallions manage to found a dynasty, but Horse of the Year A.P. Indy is definitely one of them,” I wrote. “At least 16 of his sons have succeeded in siring one or more Grade I winner in the U.S., with Pulpit, Malibu Moon and Bernardini among the most prolific. Unfortunately, there won’t be many more names to add to A.P. Indy’s tally, but one with all the right credentials is Take Charge Indy.
“His credentials include a victory in the Florida Derby. This Grade I event owes its status as a stepping stone to stallion success to a roll of honor which features Quality Road, Scat Daddy, Empire Maker, Harlan’s Holiday and Unbridled’s Song among the last 20 winners.
“Take Charge Indy could hardly have a more illustrious pedigree. In addition to being by a two-time champion sire, he is out of Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady. Take Charge Lady had also shone on the track. A daughter of the champion 2-year-old Dehere, she highlighted her potential with a pair of Grade II successes as a 2-year-old. Five more graded successes followed at three, including the GI Acorn S. and GI Spinster S., and a second Spinster victory topped off the filly’s career at four.
“The ensuing years have thoroughly justified that $4,200,000 paid for her in 2004. Take Charge Indy became her first Grade I winner in 2012, quickly followed by Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song), a [GI] Travers S. winner who was beaten only a nose in the 2013 [GI] Breeders’ Cup Classic. The sequence continued in 2014, when her grand-daughter Take Charge Brandi took the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old filly.”
Take Charge Indy’s pages in the Blood-Horse Stallion Register described him as having the “world’s most exciting Group 1 dirt pedigree.” That’s a big claim, but the son of A.P. Indy is doing his best to justify it. Take Charge Paula won the GIII Forward Gal S. on dirt, prior to finishing a creditable second, conceding 6lbs to the winner Fly So High (Malibu Moon), in the GII Davona Dale S. And now Noble Indy has courageously landed the GII Louisiana Derby, to record his third win from four starts.
It is to Take Charge Indy’s credit that Take Charge Paula is the first black-type winner to emerge from the first seven runners out of Perfect Paula, a fairly speedy juvenile in Britain sired by Songandaprayer. Noble Indy is also the best recent winner from his family. His broodmare sire, the regally-bred Storm Boot, did his winning over sprint distances in Pennsylvania and so did Noble Indy’s dam Noble Maz, a winner of five-furlong stakes races at the ages of four and five.
The Louisiana Derby winner’s second dam Illusive Note was an unraced daughter of Dixieland Band, while his third dam, the unraced Forty Niner mare Niner’s Gal, was closely related to two of Forty Niner’s smart sons. One, Banker’s Gold, was a Grade II winner over seven furlongs and a mile and an eighth, while the other, Ecton Park, won the GI Super Derby over a mile and a quarter. These smart colts were produced by half-sisters to Niner’s Gal.
Although Storm Boot’s name is usually associated with speed, his second dam Drumtop stayed a mile and a half well enough to win the Hialeah Turf Cup and the Bowling Green H. If Noble Indy goes on to become a Grade I winner, he will be the first produce of a Storm Boot mare to do so, but he isn’t their first “Derby” winner, as Neck And Neck took the GII Indiana Derby in 2012.