Trainer Magazine

Trainer Magazine - the horse racing magazine for the training and development of the thoroughbred racehorse. Europe and North America.

Willis Horton

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Take Charge Brandi, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Santa Anita, November 1st 2014; Starlet S, Los Alamitos, December 13th 2014

Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Sire: Giant's Causeway. Dam: Charming

Will Take Charge, Travers, Saratoga, 24th August 2013; Clark Handicap, Churchill Downs, 29th November 2013

Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Sire: Unbridled's Song. Dam: Take Charge

Willis Horton, who at the age of 73 is five years younger than his Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, is a native of Marshall, Arkansas, who developed D.R. Horton Custom Homes, which became the nation’s largest builder of single-family homes. Horton retired when the company went public in 1992. That allowed him to pursue his passion: horses. He’d had them growing up, and he became the managing partner of Horton Stable, which included his brother Leon, his son Cam, and his nephew Terry. Among their best horses were Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, and Partner’s Hero.

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Horton fell in love with Will Take Charge, a colt in the 2011 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. “I liked his pedigree, his size, and his conformation is terrific,” Horton said. “I’ve been in this business for about 50 years, and not on a big scale. I did it on a small scale. But this was the best-looking horse I’ve even seen in a sale.”

Another bidder was also impressed, but then stopped bidding. Why? It was Lukas. “I looked out and saw Willis bidding and I thought, ‘Whoa, I better back off here,’” Lukas said. “We’ve been friends forever.”

“It’s the most wonderful feeling to be able to get somebody put up the money, stay by you, believe in you, to give them that moment,” Lukas said. “Three strides before the wire, the only thing I thought of was him (Willis) and his wife.”

Asked what it meant to win the Travers, Horton said, “Well, it’s hard to describe, you know? I’m so happy.”