The morning after stablemates Will Take Charge and Oxbow ran first and second in the March 16 Rebel Stakes (gr. II), trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he plans to keep his charges separated for their final starts leading to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"Both pulled up excellent and ate up well," said the Hall of Fame conditioner from Oaklawn Park March 17. "They were fine this morning. I don't know what we'll do next. I will keep them separated. If I had to make a decision today—which I don't and I won't—the Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass (both gr. I) are obvious and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) comes back too quick.
"I think it helped to come out of their own stalls and run on their home track. Sometimes horses with a lot of seasoning take to it, but then you also get some talented ones that don't need it."
Oaklawn's $1 million Arkansas Derby and the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland are both April 13. They offer 100 Kentucky Derby points apiece to the winner.
With his wins in both the Smarty Jones and $600,000 Rebel, Willis D. Horton's Will Take Charge now has 60 points based on the new criteria to determine Kentucky Derby starters. He is already guaranteed a spot in the May 4 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. Calumet Farm's Oxbow earned 20 points for finishing second, bringing his total to 36 points.
Lukas could have as many as four starters in the Kentucky Derby with Channel Isle and Titletown Five approaching important out-of-town stakes engagements next weekend. Channel Isle, fourth in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III), will travel to Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., for the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes March 23. Titletown Five, second in the Gazebo Stakes, will head in the opposite direction to New Mexico for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (gr. III) at Sunland Park March 24.
Super Ninety Nine, fifth as the favorite in the Rebel, and Den's Legacy, third, didn’t waste any more time in Hot Springs and were already en route to trainer Bob Baffert’s Southern California base Sunday morning.