HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Oxbow and Will Take Charge have put their Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, front and center on the Kentucky Derby trail after a holiday weekend in which they won 3-year-old preps at two different tracks. Oxbow romped by 11 lengths in the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte at Fair Grounds on Saturday, while Will Take Charge fought for a neck win in the $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn on Monday.
Lukas has won the Kentucky Derby four times, his latest coming in 1999 with Charismatic. He is based at Oaklawn and on Tuesday reflected on the big weekend and began looking into next-race options for Oxbow, who races for Bluegrass Hall LLC, and Will Take Charge, who is owned by Willis D. Horton.
“It was a great weekend, and we’re grateful for it,” Lukas said. “Things came together. [But] it’s Jan. 22. Humility’s only one race away. But having said that, we’re ecstatic about our position and what we’ve got in front of us, and the opportunity to maybe move forward.”
Oxbow earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 91 in the Lecomte, as well as 10 points on the new system governing Kentucky Derby eligibility if the May 4 classic is oversubscribed. He currently ranks third in points, with 11, the additional point earned for his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park in December. Lukas said Tuesday that the horse’s next start would likely come in either the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at 1 1/16 miles at Fair Grounds on Feb. 23 or the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel at 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn on March 16.
“We got a couple pluses,” Lukas said of Oxbow. “Number one, we shipped . . . he got in there the night before late, walked out on a track he’d never seen before, annihilated a field, and came home. So we know he can handle that.
“Now, do we come out of our own stall here and run in the Rebel or another race? Or do we take the position that, ‘Well, he loved that situation. He dominated those horses.’ [And] even though some of those guys have got another horse and there will be some shippers, do you go back and try them again, or do you stay here? I’m not sure yet.”
Will Take Charge earned 10 points for his win in the Smarty Jones, a one-mile race in which he was forced six wide into the first turn, stalked the pace down the backside, bid three wide on the final turn, and prevailed by a neck after a stretch battle with Texas Bling. Will Take Charge, who like Oxbow was ridden by Jon Court, earned a career-high Beyer of 86. He came out of the race in good order, Lukas said, after a few anxious moments Monday.
“He stumbled pulling up, and Jon thought that he probably tweaked or jammed something,” Lukas said. “When he got to the test barn, both state vets checked him, my vet checked him. We jogged him down the road, he was fine. He’s fine this morning.”
Will Take Charge, who is a half-brother to 2012 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy, will follow a different 3-year-old path than Oxbow, Lukas said.
“Obviously, we’re going to separate them to give them both a chance to get some points,” he said.
Lukas said Tuesday that he considers Will Take Charge more of a candidate for the Rebel than Oaklawn’s upcoming 3-year-old prep, the Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest on Feb. 18.
Texas Bling to Southwest
Texas Bling raced with the pace in the Smarty Jones and then went hoof-to-hoof with Will Take Charge in the stretch to finish second by a neck. One start earlier, Texas Bling won the $300,000 Springboard Mile over Will Take Charge, at odds of 128-1.
“I think yesterday he showed everybody that he was for real, that the Springboard Mile was not a fluke,” trainer Danele Durham said Tuesday.
Durham said Texas Bling would likely make his next start in the Southwest. He emerged from the Smarty Jones in good order, she said.
“He’s very bright and alert this morning, and he says, ‘Let’s go again!’ ”
Durham has been a regular on the Texas racing scene for years. She spent last fall at Remington Park, where she won at a strong clip. She is stabled at Oaklawn for the first time, with 11 horses. Texas Bling races for his breeder, the North Texas-based Hall’s Family Trust.
Carryover of $48K for Thursday
Oaklawn has a pick-six carryover of $48,820 heading into Thursday’s card. The sequence will run from the third through eighth races. The pick six has not been solved during the first six dates of the meet that opened Jan. 11.
The sequence features 12-horse fields in the third, fourth, and sixth races. The feature is the eighth, a $62,500 optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles. Don Dulce will be both picking up more ground and returning to a track over which he is a winner as he bids to turn the tables on Herp. Both horses last raced in a Remington Park allowance won by Coyote Legend, who in his next start won the $100,000 Star of Texas for statebreds at Sam Houston. Herp was second in the allowance, and Don Dulce was third.
The feature Thursday also drew Fair Grounds shipper Stay Put for trainer Steve Margolis.