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Willis Horton's champion Will Take Charge fizzled May 2 in the $342,000 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs, as former claimer Moonshine Mullin took 'em all the way with a rail-skimming trip under Calvin Borel.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, in the irons aboard Will Take Charge, said the 3-year-old champion of 2013 never got into the fluid stride he usually displays when he wound up taking an inside trip far back in the field of eight older runners.
"He broke alert and we got into the first turn OK, but I wasn't happy down inside and he wasn't happy down inside," Stevens said. "I got an opportunity to ease him out in the clear midway around the five-eighths pole and immediately Rosie (Napravnik) came up on the outside of him and was putting pressure on him on the outside and he wasn't liking it.
"He just never got into that big, beautiful rhythm that we're used to seeing."
Moonshine Mullin, meantime, was bounding along after clearing post 1 on an early lead through a quarter in :23.84 with longshot Appealing Tale in close pursuit. The 6-year-old Albert the Great runner clocked a half in :47.81 and hit the quarter pole in 1:11.79 with grade I winner Golden Ticket ranging up on his outside.
Golden Ticket appeared as though he would put the frontrunner away through the stretch and a 1:36.32 mile, and in fact headed Moonshine Mullin several times. But the eventual winner surged back to claim the score by half a length, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.83.
Trainer Randy Morse said Moonshine Mullin, a $40,000 claim for owner Randy Patterson at Remington Park last November, has improved since allowed to head to the front. He had won three in a row at Oaklaw Park, including an April 11 allowance at the Alysheba distance by 5 3/4 lengths. His record now stands at 8-4-5 from 31 starts, with earnings of $685,513.
"The only thing we changed is we just started letting him run," Morse said. "We were trying to take a hold of him and I told 'em just let him run. He has a high cruising speed and that seems to be working."
Off at odds of 6-1, Moonshine Mullin returned $15.80, $7.40, and $5.40. Golden Ticket paid $5.80 and $4.80 while Coin Broker brought $9.80 4 1/4 lengths back in third. Mylute, Bradester, 3-5 favorite Will Take Charge, Golden Soul, and Appealing Tale completed the order of finish.
"I won with this horse at Oaklawn (April 11) the day before Will Take Charge ran his race in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II)," Borel said. "My horse had better numbers; he ran a better race. I had a lot of confidence in him today and I rode him that way... (Golden Ticket) came up outside me and actually stuck his head in front. I was giving my horse a breather, but I picked his head up and went at 'em again. He was game and we got it done."
Moonshine Mullin, bred in Kentucky by Dr. Russ Beran & Dick Johnson out of the Distant View mare Mullen Road, ran second to Stay Thirsty in the Jim Dandy Stakes in 2011. He began his career for Viking Farms Limited and trainer Reade Baker at Woodbine, and ran his big Jim Dandy effort for those connections.
Moved to the care of Donnie Von Hemel in early 2012, the bay runner struggled to find the winner's circle but finally did so in June on the Arlington Park lawn. Maggi Moss claimed him for $25,000 at Remington last August, but lost him to his current connections after three starts.
"Sometimes they turn out good and this was one of them; his last race was just huge," said Morse. "It wasn't against this caliber of horses but he really stepped it up and he's been doing well. When he drew the one hole, that was really a plus. He's been a good horse in the past... he's had some class before, he's finding it back now."