Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is back in a serious hunt for his 14th
Triple Crown victory after Will Take Charge gave the trainer his second
prep race victory of the weekend in Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones
Stakes at Oaklawn. On Saturday, he had won the Lecomte Stakes with Oxbow
at the Fair Grounds. Both races were worth 10 Kentucky Derby points to
the winner based on the new criteria for making the field for the “Run
to the Roses.”
Breaking from post nine of nine, Will Take Charge was swung six wide
into the first turn and settled into fourth as Californian invader
Avare led through an opening half mile in 46 3/5. Still racing four wide
after six furlongs in 1:11 4/5, the winner set his mind on winning
entering the stretch and gamely out-dueled his nemesis Texas Bling to
the wire, winning by a neck in 1:38 3/5 for one mile on a fast track.
The last time the horses met, the order was reversed in the Springboard
Mile at Remington Park December 9.
“This is unbelievable,” said owner Willis D. Horton. “He had kind of a
rough race. It’s remarkable that he could still win. We’ve thought
highly of him since we got him. We look forward to going forward with
him, hopefully to the Derby.”
Always in a Tiz, the 9-5 favorite, encountered traffic problems, but
could only manage third after getting clear late. He was followed by
Stormy Holiday, Brown Almighty, Officer Alex, Avare, Best of Birdstone
and King Henny.
Winning jockey Jon Court, who was also aboard Oxbow in the Lecomte,
said the difference today from when he last rode Will Take Charge in the
Kentucky Jockey Club November 24 was his mental state. The pair
finished 13th that day and then Victor Lebron had the mount in the
Springboard Mile when Will Take Charge was second.
“He had his mind on winning today,” said Court. “In his last race at
Churchill (Kentucky Jockey Club), he was hot and excited. Today, he was
calm, cool and collected.”
The winning Unbridled’s Song colt is out of the multiple Grade 1
winning mare Take Charge Lady and a half-brother to 2012 Florida Derby
winner Take Charge Indy. The Smarty Jones was his second victory from
five starts and he has now earned $184,171. He returned $26.20, $14.60
and 7.00 at odds of 12-1.
The next race in Oaklawn’s rich 3-year-old series is the $300,000
Southwest Stakes Presidents Day, Feb. 18.