Top 10: A week of little change

Updated: September 18, 2013, 2:46 PM ET
By Gary West | Special To ESPN.com

If this were just a blindfolded man's clownish attempt to pin a donkey, we could laugh it away. We could dismiss the shameless accusation as an absurdity, like the theory that the Apollo astronauts' walks on the moon were filmed in a sound stage, if only it didn't linger over Saturday's Pennsylvania Derby. But it does, and unless it's addressed and discredited, it will follow Will Take Charge all the way to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

As you're probably aware, after Will Take Charge won the Travers Stakes by a nose, Eric Guillot, the trainer of the runner-up, Moreno, accused jockey Luis Saez of using an electrical device, commonly known as a "machine" or a "battery," to encourage the winner. About the size of a cigarette lighter, a "machine" conveys an electrical charge through its two prongs. Needless to say, to use such a device on a racehorse isn't only unethical, but is also illegal.

Will Take Charge and Moreno are to meet again in the Pennsylvania Derby. And, of course, Guillot, who's better known for his crudeness than his horsemanship, is at it again. Speaking of Will Take Charge and the colt's connections, he told the New York Daily News, "They won't use the machine on him in back-to-back races. We have nothing to worry about."

D. Wayne Lukas, the Hall of Fame trainer of Will Take Charge, has said little in response to the accusations and insults. He doesn't have to. He has the cab fare to travel anywhere by way of the high road, and that's how he's going to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup.

But even if you regard Guillot as a troglodyte, you might wonder about his allegation. Well, I suggest you watch a replay of the Travers and then watch it again.

Saez repeatedly encourages the big colt with a left-handed whip. And with his right hand, Saez is riding; the jockey's scrubbing and pumping and pushing on the crest of the colt's neck in rhythm with his long strides. Where's the machine? A jockey using a machine -- who, by the way, would have to be brazen beyond belief to do so in the Travers before a national television audience -- would have it in his left hand, out of view from the grandstand. But Saez is whipping left-handed. And the right hand is busy on the crest of the neck, where a jolt wouldn't be applied. How, then, is it possible that Saez used an electrical device?

The Travers victory didn't represent huge improvement for Will Take Charge. He already had turned a corner in the Jim Dandy, where he finished second, more than two lengths ahead of Moreno, who was third. Junior Alvarado rode Will Take Charge that day.

Anyway, they meet again Saturday, Will Take Charge and Moreno, in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, at Parx. And from here, contrary to what he might think or imagine, Guillot appears to have plenty to worry about. Moreno got away with the easiest sort of lead in the Travers -- 48.88 seconds for the opening half-mile -- and he probably won't receive such a gift at Parx. Fury Kapcori has sufficient speed to grab the early advantage from him. And Transparent, who'll race on bleeder medication for the first time, looks intriguing. A return to the form he flashed in the Curlin Stakes would enable him to threaten. And Java's War, who won the Blue Grass, will race for the first time for trainer Barclay Tagg.

And when Moreno doesn't win again and it's all over, the photos taken and the champagne poured, Guillot might have something amusing to say, some absurdity, perhaps an accusation that The Illuminati fixed the race and that it was all filmed on a sound stage.

The New York State Gaming Commission and video experts with the state police are investigating the Travers. Let's hope they reach a conclusion soon, lest this nonsense encourage other conspiracy theorists to question whether Secretariat swept the Triple Crown.

The Top 10 Breeders' Cup Classic Contenders


1. Game On Dude

Trainer
2013 Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
B. Baffert
5--5-0-0
6YO (Gelding)
118
1

Game On Dude

Unbeaten and the clear favorite to be Horse of the Year, Game On Dude sits firmly atop the ESPN.com poll. His trainer has said he's approaching the Classic differently this year, the goal being to have a fresher, sharper horse than the one that finished seventh, albeit after a troubled trip, a year ago. Towards that end, Game On Dude hasn't had a published workout since he won the Pacific Classic by more than eight lengths.


2. Cross Traffic

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
T. Pletcher
5--3-2-0
4YO
77
2

Cross Traffic

Cross Traffic worked another bullet five furlongs Monday (1:01.26) over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga. It was his second bullet workout -- meaning the fastest of the morning -- in eight days. The tenacious winner of the Whitney passed the Woodward to wait for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28, where he'll have his biggest test.


3. Royal Delta

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
B. Mott
5--3-0-1
5YO (Mare)
73
3

Royal Delta

With another solid move at Saratoga on Monday (five furlongs in 1:02.90), she appears to be training steadily in preparation for the Beldame at Belmont Park on Sept. 28. Her trainer, Bill Mott, said the two-time champion will be pre-entered in both the Breeders' Cup Classic and Distaff.


4T. Fort Larned

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
I. Wilkes
4--1-0-0
5YO
69
4T

Fort Larned

Fort Larned's trainer, Ian Wilkes, announced that last year's Classic winner will pass the Jockey Club Gold Cup in New York and stay home, at Churchill Downs, for the $175,000 Homecoming Classic, also on Sept. 28. The announcement came after Fort Larned worked five-eighths of a mile Tuesday at Churchill in 59.80 seconds, with regular jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. riding. The Churchill clockers caught Fort Larned running the final quarter-mile in 23.20 seconds and galloping out an additional furlong in 1:12.40.


4T. Orb

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
S. McGaughey
7--4-0-2
3YO
69
4T

Orb

After finishing third in the Travers, he returned to the Fair Hill training center, where he apparently thrived before traveling to Saratoga. And he again seems to be doing well there. He worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:01 on Saturday, and his trainer, Shug McGaughey, said it was "excellent." He seems poised to move forward when he takes on older horses for the first time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.


6. Palace Malice

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
T. Pletcher
8--2-2-1
3YO
59
6

Palace Malice

He worked five easy furlongs (1:02.03) Monday at Saratoga. Although fourth, he gave a winning effort in the Travers, where he crawled out of the gate, entered the first turn with a view of the entire field and raced five-wide in the second turn. He could be a major player in the Classic.


7. Flat Out

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
B. Mott
6--2-1-1
7YO
54
7

Flat Out

Third in last year's Classic, Flat Out impressed while winning the Suburban and again while finishing second in the Woodward. He could return in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, where he has won five of his six outings.


8. Wise Dan

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
C. LoPresti
5--5-0-0
6YO (Gelding)
36
8

Wise Dan

The reigning Horse of the Year traveled to Canada and set a course record while winning Sunday's $1 million Woodbine Mile. He could make one more start, at Keeneland, before going for a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile.


9. Will Take Charge

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
D. W. Lukas
8--3-1-0
3YO
30
9

Will Take Charge

Will Take Charge takes on Moreno, Transparent, Speak Logistics, Battier, Java's Gold, Fury Kapcori and Romansh in Saturday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx. A good effort here could prepare him to step forward in the Classic.


10. Successful Dan

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Age
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
C. LoPresti
4--1-1-1
7YO (Gelding)
26
10

Successful Dan

Second in the Whitney and third in the Woodward, he has a reliable and powerful late kick, which could lead to success in a Breeders' Cup Classic that's almost certain to be rich in speed.


Also receiving votes: Alpha (19), Declaration of War (18), Mucho Macho Man (16), Kettle Corn (7), Paynter (5), Clubhouse Ride (6), Ron the Greek (6), Moreno (4), Departing (4), Point of Entry (3), Princess of Sylmar (3), Beholder (3), Graydar (3).

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