Will Take Charge pushed ahead of Oxbow on Saturday to win the $600,000 Rebel Stakes by a head at Oaklawn, putting both D. Wayne Lukas-trained horses on track for the Kentucky Derby.
Finishing third was Bob Baffert-trained Den’s Legacy, part of a disappointing day for the Californian, whose favored Super Ninety Nine wore out and finished fifth in the 10-horse field.
Baffert was trying for his fourth consecutive victory in the 1-1/16-mile Rebel.
Oxbow, owned by Calumet Farm and a son of Awesome Again and Tizamazing, stalked the first half-mile, moving from fourth to third, then broke to the lead by the turn for home. Will Take Charge just had more kick on the fast track.
Will Take Charge, a son of Unbridled’s Song and Take Charge Lady, carried a race-high 122 pounds and finished in 1:45.0.
Will Take Charge returned $58.00 for a $2 win bet.
The Rebel is a prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby in April, a Grade 1, but Lukas said he would pick his shots with the horses before the Kentucky Derby.
”They will not see each other until the first Saturday in May,” he said.
Heading into the Rebel, Will Take Charge earned $91,200. On Saturday, he picked up a $360,000 winner’s share and 50 points toward the Kentucky Derby.
Before finishing sixth in the Southwest, the chestnut colt won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 13 at Oaklawn.
Jockey Jon Court said the horse was ready to follow what Lukas had in mind for the finish.
”Wayne told me how well he’s been doing, and he had him tuned up today. The race was executed to plan. It worked out perfectly. I was able to position him where we wanted. He was very professional today,” Court said.
”Fortunately, it unfolded just as (Lukas) and I had discussed — that I would be just off the front a few lengths back somewhat in the catbird seat and then when we turned for home just go ahead and execute that kick that he has at the end,” Court said. ”And I saw Oxbow go by, and he looked like he was full of run. I was able to just head him up right before the wire.”
Lukas said he likes Will Take Charge’s form.
”This horse, Will Take Charge. He’s a long-, long-striding horse,” he said.
Den’s Legacy jockey Robby Albarado said Baffert’s horse has a future.
”Great trip. Nice rail trip. Congratulations to Wayne. This horse ran great. You’ll hear a lot more from him,” Albarado said.
Will Take Charge finished poorly in a muddy Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18, a $300,000, Grade 3.
”He said, `I’m not running in the mud. I don’t get paid enough,” Lukas said.
Lukas said it was important to put the misery of the Southwest in the past.
”The best thing that can happen to you if you are a horse trainer is to have a bad memory,” he said.
Will Take Charge owner Willis D. Horton said he’s enjoying watching the season progress.
”Other than winning the Kentucky Oaks, this is the biggest race that we’ve conquered.”
Den’s Legacy, owned by Little Rock father and son Joe and Scott Ford and Westrock Stables LLC, made his first Arkansas race. He’d finished second in the Grade 2, $200,000 Lewis Stakes last month and won the Grade 3, $100,000 Shamrock in January, both at Santa Anita.
Also running were Texas Bling, Super Ninety Nine, Title Contender, Treasury Bill, Hardrock Eleven, Stormy Holiday, Delhomme.
Oaklawn had an on-track handle of $2,271,356 and a total of $7,895,380 in front of 33,963 fans.