Will Take Charge made a steady charge to the front and ran down Oxbow in the final furlong to pull the upset win at the $600,000 Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park late Saturday.
At the start, race favorite (6-5) Super Ninety Nine, tried to take the early lead from his 11th post position; but as it was expected, Title Contender was sent to the lead by jockey Luis Quiñones, with the sole purpose of denying Super Ninety Nine of an easy lead.
Delhomme also showed good speed on the inside, but his jockey Garrett Gomez decided to relax him and settled in third, while Mike Smith steadily moved Oxbow to the inside and placed fourth.
Stormy Holiday was fifth and Jon Court placed Will Take Charge easily in sixth position, right in the middle of the pack, just behind the leaders as they entered the backstretch.
Rafael Bejarano moved Super Ninety Nine midway through the backstretch and took the lead, but it was short lived. Smith identified this and urged Oxbow on the outside to take the lead away from Super Ninety Nine as they reached the three-quarter mile pole.
Den's Legacy was making a move to third on the rail under Robby Albarado, and Will Take Charge moved up to fourth. Title Contender and Delhomme were tiring and losing ground.
As they entered the home stretch, Oxbow on the outside, Super Ninety Nine in the middle and Den's Legacy on the rail, got in tight quarters and bumped each other slightly.
Super Ninety Nine was tiring and gave up the fight with a furlong to go, as Oxbow puts his head up front and started leaving Den's Legacy behind.
Will Take Charge started his huge run just to Oxbow's outside in the final 100-meter mark. Smith defended his mount on Oxbow with a strong urging, but Court and Will Take Charge were just too much at the wire, winning by a head.
Oxbow finished a game second after making his three-wide bid for the lead. It was two lengths back to Den's Legacy who tired at the end to finish third, three lengths ahead of Texas Bling who rallied to finish fourth in the final strides after running eighth early on.
Super Ninety Nine finished a tiring fifth, over eight lengths behind the winner. Carve, Title Contender, Treasury Bill, Hardrock Eleven and Stormy Holiday round up the order of finish.
Delhomme, fourth betting choice at 9-2, was eased up in the home stretch and did not finish.
Super Ninety Nine had no excuses today, other than not being able to rate and not replicating his runaway success on the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes over the slop to the fast dirt track today. Bejarano gave him the perfect trip, but he could not capitalize today.
Second-place finisher Oxbow ran a huge race under Mike Smith and was just nipped at right before the wire. The Grade 3 Lecomte winner has been an unlucky loser on his last two outings after improving efforts.
Will Take Charge was sort of the forgotten horse, and now validates his win at the Smarty Jones Stakes here at Oaklawn on Jan. 21. He had finished a disappointing sixth, 18 lengths behind Super Ninety Nine at the Southwest Stakes in his last race, but now we can safely say he did not like the sloppy track.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas saddled both top finishers, and now, barring injury, has one assured and one very likely starter for the Kentucky Derby.
The Grade 2 Rebel Stakes was worth 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, awarding the top four finishers with 50-20-10-5 points, respectively.
Will Take Charge earned 50 points and now has 60 total points, taking the lead in the points standings—he has a total of $512,971 non-restricted Graded Stakes earnings.
Oxbow earned 20 points. He now has 36 total points, good for sixth place overall and a total of $316,000 non-restricted Graded Stakes earnings.
Den's Legacy is 11th with 20 total points after his 10 points earned and a total of $325,000 non-restricted Graded Stakes earnings.
Fourth-place finisher Texas Bling got five points and now has a total nine points and $241,200 non-restricted Graded Stakes earnings.
The $1 million Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 13 will be the final Kentucky Derby prep race at Oaklawn Park. It will be interesting to see if trainer Lukas and the top two finisher's connections decide to grace us with a rematch between Will Take Charge and Oxbow.
Will Take Charge is a son of Unbridled Song out of the Dehere mare Take Charge Lady, making him a half-brother to 2012 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy. He is owned by Willis D. Horton and cost $425,000 at the Sep. 2011 Keeneland sale.
Oxbow is a son of Awesome Again out of the Cee's Tizzy mare, Tizamazing. He is owned by the historic Calumet Farm and cost $250,000, also at the Sep. 2011 Keeneland sale.
|Rebel Stakes - Grade: 2|
|Distance: One And One Sixteenth Miles On The Dirt|
|Track Condition: Fast|
|Fractionals: 23.36 47.19 1:12.39 1:38.44 Winning Time: 1:45.18 |
|7||Will Take Charge||Jon Kenton Court||58.00||16.20||9.80|
|9||Oxbow||Mike E. Smith||7.80||5.60|
|6||Den's Legacy||Robby Albarado||6.00|
|Also ran: 3 - Texas Bling, 10 - Super Ninety Nine, 2 - Carve, 1A - Title Contender, 1 - Treasury Bill, 5 - Hardrock Eleven, 8 - Stormy Holiday, 4 - Delhomme|
|Winning Breeder: Eaton|
|Winning Owner: Willis D. Horton|
|Winning Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas|
|Wager Type||Winning Numbers||Payoff|