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Breeders' Cup 2017

Lukas Very Pleased With Sophomores

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas declared himself “very pleased” the morning after two of his leading 3-year-olds posted workouts Tuesday in preparation for the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.

Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes here in January, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 3/5. A short time later, Calumet Farm’s Oxbow breezed the same distance in 1:13 4/5 in his first workout since the Lecomte Stakes winner finished a close fourth in the Risen Star Stakes, both at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

“They were excellent,” said Lukas. “They both had nice breezes. They got a little conditioning and handled the new surface. I really like the way they went. We sent them up separately yet they both came back with works that were almost identical, and I like that.”

Lukas reported that Titletown Five, runner-up in Saturday’s Gazebo Stakes in his first start as a 3-year-old, emerged from the race in good order.

“He fooled me into thinking I had him fit enough,” said Lukas. “The good ones will do that because they make things look so easy. It was a good race for him and we should have plenty now to move forward with him.”

With both 3-year-olds running in the Rebel, Lukas secured fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith to ride Oxbow while two-time Arkansas Derby (G1)-winning jockey Jon Court remains aboard Will Take Charge.

In addition to the pair of colts, Lukas breezed Raison d’Etat, an entrant in Saturday’s $150,000 Razorback Handicap, three furlongs in 37 4/5 as well as Broken Spell, third in two starts here this meet including the Martha Washington Stakes, who went a half-mile in 50 1/5. She will race in Saturday’s $150,000 Honeybee Stakes. Calumet’s grass racing star and 2012 Rebel runner-up Optimizer was the bullet worker at a half-mile, going in 48 1/5.

Carve Pointed to Rebel, Hoping to Carve Space in the Potential Full Field

With $600,000 and 85 points on the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby,’ a large field is coming together for the Rebel Stakes (G2) and that has the connections of undefeated Carve anxious about getting a spot if the 14-horse starting gate fills to capacity.

The 3-year-old gelding is 2-for-2 with both impressive wins coming at Oaklawn. He started his career for trainer Al Stall and owners Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, making his debut in a maiden claiming race, where trainer Steve Asmussen dropped a check with $30,000 worth of owner Michael Langford’s money and took him back to his barn. His first run for his new team was a gutty score over highly regarded Title Contender, trained by Bob Baffert, in an allowance race Feb. 17.

Oaklawn officials and published reports indicate 15 horses are considering running in the 1 1/16th-mile contest on March 16. If all 15 enter, one would have to be excluded and be placed on an “also eligible” list hoping another entrant scratches. Total career earnings (excluding money won in restricted races like those reserved only for horses bred in a particular state) are used to rank the entrants. Carve has $47,400 earned in his two wins, placing him 13th and very much “on the bubble.”

“We are going to monitor how he’s developing,” said Darren Fleming, assistant to Asmussen overseeing the Oaklawn string. “It really depends on how many come up and how he comes up to the race. We need to see if he’s going to be eligible, but for that kind of money, it’s definitely worth taking a chance.”

Fleming has helped guide Team Asmussen back from a slow start to the meet to third-place in the Oaklawn trainer’s standings. Through the first month of the season, last year’s leading stable was just 2-for-34 but with 10 second-place finishes, meaning they had as many place horses as the leading trainer at the time (Chris Richard) had wins. Since Feb. 9 when Sister Ginger upset the Martha Washington Stakes with jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard, Asmussen has gone 12-for-37, winning nearly a third of his starts. Many of those wins came along with equally red-hot Santana, who has gone 22-for-81 since Feb. 9.



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