All eyes were on Bob Baffert’s duo going into the Grade II $600,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., but it was the pair sent out by D. Wayne Lukas getting the stares at the conclusion of Saturday’s Road to the Kentucky Derby race when Will Take Charge charged into the stretch to best stablemate Oxbow by a head.
Baffert’s Southwest Stakes winner Super Ninety Nine, who’d won that race by 11 ¼ lengths, seemed a lock, at odds of 6-5, to take down the field of 10 competitors in the Rebel. Lukas’s Oxbow, the LeComte Stakes winner, was sent off as the second choice in the field at odds of 7-2 and seemed to be the most credible threat. So, it wasn’t a huge surprise that a Lukas horse was the one to upset Baffert’s Super Ninety Nine, but it was a surprise which Lukas horse would do it. Will Take Charge, the Smarty Jones Stakes winner, at odds of 28-1, stormed home to overtake the leaders and steal victory from his stablemate.
As expected, Super Ninety Nine went for the early lead, but relaxed and allowed Title Contender to carry the field through the far turn. As Super Ninety Nine grabbed the lead, Oxbow was quick to join him. The pair battled around the turn, but Super Ninety Nine began to fade with a furlong left to run. Baffert’s Den’s Legacy made his way up the rail, but was unable to catch Oxbow. Will Take Charge came up on the outside and was able to kick in a few good strides to nab Oxbow at the wire. Den’s Legacy finished third, three lengths in front of Texas Bling, who was 3 ¼ lengths in front of Super Ninety Nine.