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Dec 19, 2014

Up the Backstretch: Take Charge Brandi building strong resume

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - She was a forgotten longshot going into the starting gate for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 1. Now, Take Charge Brandi is the leading 2-year-old filly in the land and making a late charge in Horse of the Year discussion.

Take Charge Brandi won the Juvenile Fillies as a 61-1 longshot but had very little respect following her wire to wire victory. Less than two months later, as 2014 comes to a close, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly has only gotten stronger since that Santa Anita victory.

"This is an exceptional filly," jockey Victor Espinoza said following his winning ride aboard Take Charge Brandi this past Saturday in the Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos. "To win the Breeders' Cup and then go to Delta Downs and win (the Delta Princess Nov. 22) and then come back with this race is amazing."

Espinoza guided Take Charge Brandi to a half-length win in the Starlet, formerly the Hollywood Starlet Stakes, after once again taking the lead from the gate and setting the entire pace.

"I was a little surprised at first that she made that easy a lead," Espinoza noted, "but once she gets to that cruising speed, she's so quick it's hard for the others to keep up with her. I was just focused on my horse in the stretch. It seemed like when she felt them coming, she dug in and wasn't going to let them by."

The Starlet victory came just three weeks after claiming the Delta Princess at Delta Downs in Louisiana. Take Charge Brandi, again with Espinoza in the saddle, won by 1 1/2 lengths although she raced second through the early going.

"It's completely changed her since we decided just to leave her alone and let her run her race. We tried to get too cute with her during the summer and finally, I woke up and said I'll just leave her alone. We made that decision and it's worked," Lukas said Saturday.

Unlike most Breeders' Cup winners, Take Charge Brandi has raced twice since her victory in the Juvenile Fillies and not only further established her credentials as 2014 champion 2-year-old female but must get some consideration as Horse of the Year.

"The whole purpose of coming here was to take the doubt out of it (the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old filly) if we could and I didn't think we had to win to do that," Lukas noted. "I told (owner) Willis (Horton) that if we ran 1-2-3 we would still be very much in the picture."

Lukas can be assured that Take Charge Brandi will win the 2014 Eclipse Award as he scopes out the filly's racing schedule for 2015.

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