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.
Will Take Charge, out of Take Charge Lady, is a half-brother to Take Charge Indy, last year’s Florida Derby winner. Jockey Jon Court, who had ridden both Oxbow and Will Take Charge in their last two starts, was aboard Will Take Charge for the win. Lukas took home his second Rebel victory, having won his first in 1989 with Manastash Ridge, and brought an end to Baffert’s streak of three straight Rebel wins.
The win gives Will Take Charge 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system which brings his total points to 60 and puts him atop the leaderboard. Oxbow earned 20 points for his second-place finish and moves into sixth position with 36 points. Den’s Legacy grabbed another 10 points for a total of 20 and sits at position 11. Texas Bling got 5 points for finishing fourth, which brings his total points to 9.
Will Take Charge returned $58.00, $16.20, and $9.80. Oxbow paid $7.80 and $5.60 and completed the $2 exacta for $275.80. Den’s Legacy paid $6.00 and completed the $1 trifecta for $1,162.30. Texas Bling completed the $1 superfecta for $17,648. The final time for the 1 1/16 mile race over the fast dirt was 1:45:18.
Photo: Courtesy Oaklawn Park