Will Take Charge pushes his head in front of determined stablemate Oxbow to win the Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn Park. (Photo courtesy of Coady Photography)
By Mike Curry, @currymj19, America’s Best Racing
Will Take Charge reeled in stablemate Oxbow in the closing strides of the $600,000 Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn Park to give Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas a one-two finish in the final local prep race for the $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Three times in the last nine years the Rebel winner has gone on to win at least one jewel of the Triple Crown: Smarty Jones (Kentucky Derby, Preakness in 2004), Curlin (Preakness in 2007), and Lookin At Lucky (Preakness in 2010).
With the one-two finish, Lukas appears to have a pair of legitimate Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Will Take Charge, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes in January at Oaklawn, sits atop the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Twinspires.com Points Leaderboard with 60 points, while Lecomte Stakes winner and Rebel runner-up Oxbow ranks sixth with 36 points.
A 1999 inductee into the Racing Hall of Fame, Lukas has won the Kentucky Derby four times in his storied career among 13 victories in Triple Crown races.
The early pace in the Rebel was brisk as Title Contender opened a clear lead after the first quarter-mile and held the advantage into the final turn in the 1 1/16-mile race. Oxbow enjoyed a perfect trip, racing about three or four lengths behind the front-runner before charging past Title Contender and 6-5 favorite Super Ninety Nine to take command nearing the stretch.
Oxbow appeared to have the race won when he powered to a clear advantage in the final furlong. But Will Take Charge, who was reserved in sixth early by jockey Jon Court, closed with ground-devouring strides to push his head in front at the finish line.
“I was feeling pretty good 100 yards from the wire,” Lukas said. “The competition was so tough. The hill gets a little steeper from this point.”
WILL TAKE CHARGE (outside) OVERPOWERS OXBOW LATE
Photo courtesy of Coady Photography
Will Take Charge, by Unbridled’s Song, completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.18 for his third win in seven starts for Lukas and owner Willis D. Horton.
Purchased for $425,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, Will Take Charge is the second stakes winner produced by three-time Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, whose son Take Charge Indy won the 2012 Florida Derby.
Den’s Legacy, who briefly threatened Oxbow for the lead in the stretch, held on for third. Texas Bling rallied for fourth, and Southwest Stakes winner Super Ninety Nine faded to fifth in the 11-horse field.
The Arkansas Derby is scheduled for April 13 and will be televised live on NBC Sports Network from 6-7 p.m. EDT. Click here for a complete television schedule on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
Lukas in the Triple Crown