02/15/2013 5:01PM

Oaklawn Park notes: Lukas's pair bring contrasting styles to Southwest Stakes

Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
Will Take Charge won the Smarty Jones Stakes in his last start Jan. 21.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will be firing from upfront and behind Monday when he sends out Will Take Charge and Channel Isle in the Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park. Will Take Charge figures to be close to the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race, while Channel Isle will be a late threat.

The horses are part of an anticipated field of at least nine starters in the Southwest, which is the first race in Oaklawn’s graded series for 3-year-olds. The race is worth 10 points to the winner on a new system governing Kentucky Derby preference. Others expected for the race are Always in a Tiz, Big Lute, Brown Almighty, Fear the Kitten, Officer Alex, Super Ninety Nine, and Texas Bling.

Will Take Charge was a determined neck winner over Texas Bling in the $150,000 Smarty Jones at a mile at Oaklawn in his last start Jan. 21. Jon Court was aboard and again has the mount on Will Take Charge.

“He’s got good tactical speed,” Lukas said. “He’s going to lay in the first half; if it’s eight or 10 horses, he’ll be one, two, three, four.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Channel Isle won a first-level allowance at Oaklawn in his last start Jan. 26. Israel Ocampo was aboard and has the mount in the Southwest.

“He’ll be closing on horses at the end,” Lukas said. “He just has that gear of coming and coming and coming at you.”

Will Take Charge will start as one of the top choices Monday and appears to be coming into the Southwest in peak form. He is bred to excel at 3 as a son of the multiple Grade 1-winning racemare Take Charge Lady, who produced last year’s Florida Derby winner, Take Charge Indy.

“He’s having a wonderful three weeks since his last race,” Lukas said of Will Take Charge. “I think he’s gotten stronger and more focused. His works have been a lot more serious.

“You want those 3-year-olds to develop and start to come around about this time. Every time I’ve had one that I thought had classic potential, it’s always been a horse like a Thunder Gulch, Charismatic that came around about this time. Those horses that start to develop and grow – those are the kinds.”

Channel Isle will be moving to 1 1/16 miles following a win at a mile at Oaklawn.

“He’s crying for more distance,” Lukas said. “He’s a big, long-striding horse.”

Channel Isle races for Calumet Farm, and Will Take Charge goes for Arkansas resident Willis D. Horton.

Napravnik to ride Fear the Kitten

Fear the Kitten is invading from Fair Grounds for the Southwest and is to be ridden by Rosie Napravnik, said Mike Maker, who trains the horse for Frank Irvin. Maker is hoping for a strong pace in the Southwest, one start after Fear the Kitten chased wire-to-wire winner Oxbow in the Grade 3 Lecomte, finishing third in the Fair Grounds race run Jan. 19.

“We’re really hoping for a hot pace,” Maker said. “He’ll be coming from the back.”

Maker said another reason to target the Southwest was the timing of the race in comparison to the next 3-year-old stakes at Fair Grounds, the Grade 2 Risen Star on Feb. 23.

“We’re looking at the Spiral, and it gives us more time between races,” he said.

The Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral will be run at Turfway Park on March 23. It will be run over a synthetic surface, the type of track Fear the Kitten won his maiden on last fall at Keeneland.

For Greater Glory, a recent maiden special weight winner at Oaklawn, could develop into a Spiral candidate, trainer Steve Hobby said. The horse is being considered for the $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial on March 2, the Turfway prep for the Spiral.

For Greater Glory races for Alex and JoAnn Lieblong, who also have Big Lute with Hobby. Hobby said Robby Albarado will ride Big Lute in the Southwest. In other rider assignments, Paco Lopez will be aboard Always in a Tiz, said Anthony Bonomo Jr., general manager for the horse’s ownership. Luis Quinonez has the mount on Officer Alex, trainer Lynn Whiting said.

Midas Dancer vs. Baffert invader

Midas Dancer, one of the top 3-year-olds trainer Ken McPeek has at Oaklawn, will take on Bob Baffert trainee Title Contender in the seventh race Sunday. The $62,500 optional claimer for 3-year-olds carries first-level allowance conditions and will be run over 1 1/16 miles.

Midas Dancer was second to the promising Gulfport in a $75,000 optional claimer at Churchill Downs in his last start Nov. 24.

“It was a good race, a flat mile,” said McPeek, adding that the horse wants more distance. “He’s got a chance to be a nice colt. He’s coming on.

“If he wins this next start, he’ll go to the Rebel.”

Victor Lebron has the mount for Stoneleigh Farm.