Far Bridge asserts his authority in the Belmont Derby (NYRA/Coglianese)
NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y.— Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher appears to be in a good spot heading into the upcoming Saratoga Race Course meet after enjoying graded-stakes success Saturday at Belmont Park with Far Bridge and Charge It.
LSU Stables’ Far Bridge earned his first graded stakes triumph in the 10-furlong Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational. Pletcher said following the race that the 1 3/16-mile Grade 1, $600,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 5 would be, “a logical next target.”
Whisper Hill Farm’s Charge It is a likely candidate for the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney at nine furlongs on the same day following a 4 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Suburban going 10 furlongs. The Suburban win garnered a 106 Beyer Speed Figure.
Pletcher’s Belmont-based assistant Byron Hughes reported that both horses exited their winning performances in good order.
“Both looked great this morning. They ate up last night and were walking around with a purpose this morning. They’re both happy with themselves,” Hughes said.
Far Bridge entered the Belmont Derby from a pair of troubled second-place finishes in the Grade 2 American Turf on May 6 at Churchill Downs and the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge on June 3 at Belmont. But luck was on his side in the Belmont Derby, where he raced along the hedge around the far turn under Jose Ortiz before tipping into the clear in mid-stretch to take down pacesetting longshot Mondego to win by one length over late-running The Foxes. Far Bridge earned a career-best 95 Beyer in victory.
“Jose did a great job giving him a patient ride,” Hughes commented.
Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Far Bridge is out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Fitpitcher. His third dam is multiple graded stakes winner Pleasant Temper – the granddam of graded stakes winning millionaire Long Range Toddy.
Charge It entered from unplaced efforts in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 22 and the Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 10, where he finished a respective fifth and fourth.
The Suburban was the 4-year-old son of Tapit’s first start going the 10-furlong distance since finishing 17th in last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, but he passed the Classic distance test with flying colors with a commanding pacesetting performance under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.
“He stayed the 10 furlongs and Johnny was happy with him, too,” Hughes said. “He got definitely got into a nice rhythm.”
Charge It’s triumph also garnered a sense of pride from Todd Quast, the general manager of Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm.
“He ran big. We never felt like he had a problem with distance by watching him train in the morning, but he has to do it in the afternoon,” Quast said. “He can be just a little bit quirky. The talent and raw ability are both there, and he can do it in the afternoons. When he puts it all together, it’s an amazing performance.”
Following the Kentucky Derby, Charge It was an emphatic 23-length winner of the local Grade 3 Dwyer in the final start of his sophomore season. He made his 2023 debut in a February allowance going 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park, which he won by 1 1/2 lengths. He then cut back to a one-turn mile to finish second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile the following month.
“We had started off this year in the allowance race which was great and then in the Gulfstream Park Mile wasn’t as good, but he was still right there,” Quast said. “I think he lost some confidence in the race at Oaklawn. We were thinking either go straight to the Whitney which we didn’t really want to do, or do something like this. The horses that will be in the Whitney will be ultra tough, but I think our horse is ultra tough. On a given day, he can be as good as anyone.”
Charge It is out of the Indian Charlie mare I’ll Take Charge, who is out of the prolific Grade 1-winner and producer Take Charge Lady. Named the 2014 Broodmare of the Year, Take Charge Lady produced 2013 Champion 3-Year-Old Male Will Take Charge, Grade 1 winners Take Charge Indy and As Time Goes By, as well as Charming – the dam of 2014 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Take Charge Brandi and multiple Grade 1-winner Omaha Beach.
I’ll Take Charge was bought by Whisper Hill for $2.2 million at the 2013 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, and only won one of her five starts but never finished worse than third.
“She was a decent racehorse, but had some physical issues,” Quast said. “To have a homebred run last year and this year and get right back on path is just huge. It’s very exciting.”
Quast pointed out that, like Charge It, 2022 Horse of the Year Flightline also is by Tapit and out of an Indian Charlie mare.
“We’ll have to see how Flightline does,” Quast said. “I’m not saying we’re Flightline at all, but I think about how well received he is in the breeding shed and how good of a racehorse he was. If Charge It were to win the Whitney and then come back and be lucky enough to win the Breeders’ Cup, he should be well received in the breeding shed when he does go.”