03/18/2013 11:53AM

DRF Breeding Weekend Wrap: Lukas pair solidify Derby credentials

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Activity on the Kentucky Derby trail was relatively light last weekend, as Saturday’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park was the only prep race scheduled awarding point to the top finishers. It proved to be one of the most exciting prep races to date, however, as the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Will Take Charge and Oxbow battled through the final sixteenth before Will Take Charge prevailed by a head. Both solidified their standings among the top 20 Derby contenders, as Will Take Charge now leads the standings with 60 points and Oxbow ranks sixth with 36.

Will Take Charge, by Unbridled’s Song, won the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on Jan. 21 in a similarly gritty performance, defeating Texas Bling by a neck, but disappointed over the slop in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18, finishing sixth. Unbridled’s Song, standing at Taylor Made Stallions for $60,000 in 2013, is one of the most popular stallions in North America but has yet to fully emulate his own sire, Unbridled, by siring a classic winner. His best progeny records in that regard are ill-fated Eight Belles’ second in the 2008 Derby and Dunkirk’s runner-up effort the following year in the Belmont Stakes.

Kentucky-bred Will Take Charge is out of multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, making him a half-brother to last year’s Florida Derby winner and Clark Handicap runner-up Take Charge Indy. In the Smarty Jones and again in the Rebel, the colt did his best running late and evidenced a good deal of combativeness in the stretch. Hall of Famer Lukas said that Will Take Charge, who earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure in the Rebel, would be pointed to the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass Stakes over Keeneland’s Polytrack on April 13 for his final Derby prep. Will Take Charge won a seven-furlong maiden race at Keeneland last fall.

Oxbow, a sharp winner of the Le Comte stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 19, also rebounded at Oaklawn. He came into the Rebel off of a fourth-place effort in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 23, albeit beaten only by a half-length in a blanket finish. As in the Risen Star, on Saturday Oxbow took the lead in early stretch but could not last. He also earned a 95 Beyer in the Rebel.

Lukas said following the Rebel that he was leaning toward keeping Oxbow, who races for Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm, at Oaklawn for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby on April 13. Oxbow’s pedigree suggests he should have little problem getting the classic distance, and his failure to hold a lead in the Risen Star and the Rebel could partially be attributed to breaking from an outside post in both races, although Will Take Charge and Risen Star winner Ive Struck a Nerve also lost ground in their winning efforts.

Oxbow’s sire, 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, stands at Adena Springs in Kentucky for $75,000. A true mile-and-a quarter performer, he has passed that stamina to his best progeny, among them 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and recent Santa Anita Handicap victor Game On Dude. Oxbow’s dam, the unraced Cee’s Tizzy mare Tizamazing, is a full sister to four stakes winners, the most prominent being two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow. She is also a full sister to Tizso, dam of last year’s Haskell winner and Belmont runner-up Paynter, another son of Awesome Again.

Also on Saturday, Bright Thought declared himself a new and major talent in the distance turf division with a course—and world—record-setting performance in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old son of Gainesway Farm stallion Hat Trick impressed in his first try against graded stakes company, particularly in the way he managed to stay patient after yielding the lead to multiple graded stakes winner Slim Shadey when the field passed through Santa Anita’s stretch for the first time. Bright Thought reclaimed the lead through the final turn and powered clear to a 3 1/4-length win, earning a 104 Beyer. His final time of 2:22.72 eclipsed Hawkster’s 1989 mark of 2:22.80 for 1 1/2 miles at Santa Anita, which is listed as the world record for that distance in the Daily Racing Form’s American Racing Manual.

Bred in Kentucky by co-owner Venneri Racing and Postum Farm, Bright Thought is out of the winning Smart Strike mare Smart Thought, and his extended female family includes a host of graded/group stakes winners such as Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass and successful sire E Dubai. Look for more detailed analysis of Bright Thought and his up-and-coming sire Hat Trick on Thursday in DRF Breeding’s Hot Sire of the Week profile.

Weekend notes: Rick Porter’s Joyful Victory picked up her first career Grade 1 win in the Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita, shaking off pace pressure from Great Hot on the backstretch and coasting to a four-length win over More Chocolate. The 5-year-old Tapit mare entered the 1 1/8 mile race in what many observed to be career-best form after dominating the Sam Houston Ladies Stakes on Jan. 26, and handled the extra half-furlong with ease, picking up a 107 Beyer. She boosted her career bankroll over the seven-figure mark to $1,090,679 and will take some time off before her next start. Porter purchased Joyful Victory at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Florida selected 2-year-olds in training sale for $400,000. She is out of the winning Wild Again mare Miss Lucy Black.