Trainer Bob Baffert has been dominant at Oaklawn Park in recent years, sweeping the Derby preps last year, but Super Ninety Nine was not exactly super on Saturday as fellow hall of fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas dominated the race.
Will Take Charge, who was beaten by Super Ninety Nine by 16 lengths in the Grade 3 Southwest on Feb. 18 bounced back with a stellar effort to pull off the upset, catching his stablemate Oxbow in the stretch to win by a head.
The colt returned $58.00 with the all-Lukas exacta returning $275.80. Den’s Legacy completed a $1 trifecta that paid $1,162.30 while Super Ninety Nine checked in fifth as the 6-5 favorite.
Lukas is no stranger to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May, starting 45 runners in the race, winning it four times: Charismatic (1999), Grindstone (1996), Thunder Gulch (1995) and Winning Colors (1988).
Last year Lukas started Optimizer, who came into the Derby off a runner up finish in the Rebel and a ninth place finish in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby. Sent off at 42-1 the colt was not much of a threat in an 11th place finish.
His two top colts this year are going to take different paths for their last Derby preps. Will Take Charge looks headed to the Grade 1 $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 13 while Oxbow may land in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park the same day.
Will Take Charge has a nice pedigree. He is by Unbridled’s Song out of the Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady ($2.48 million) who produced the winner of last year’s Grade 1 Florida Derby with Take Charge Indy ($871,824).
The Lukas duo each earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95 in the Rebel. There have been 14 Derby preps to date this year, and the 95 Beyer ranks fifth among winning figures.
Lukas has a couple of other three-year-olds that could find their way into the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby.
Channel Isle, who was fourth in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 18, is headed to the Grade 3 $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park this Saturday.
Titletown Five is headed to the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park on Sunday. The colt was the runner up in the Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 2.
As for Super Ninety Nine, jockey Rafael Bejarano said “I was really comfortable in the beginning, but then my horse flattened out after that.”
“That track was too deep for him,” Baffert said.
Baffert said on Monday that Den’s Legacy may return to Hot Springs for the Arkansas Derby, but was not sure what is next for Super Ninety Nine.
Baffert has several other top three-year-olds that could be Derby bound including Flashback, Code West and Shakin It Up.
Will Take Charge Wins Rebel at Oaklawn Park
Road to the Kentucky Derby
These are prep races for the Kentucky Derby coming up in the next couple of weeks, each offering points toward a starting spot in the gate for the Run for the Roses:
Mar. 23: Turfway Park: Spiral Stakes
Mar. 24: Sunland Park: Sunland Derby
Mar. 30: Gulfstream Park: Florida Derby, Meydan: UAE Derby, Fair Grounds: Louisiana Derby
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