Longshot Will Take Charge, breaking from the outside post, captured Oaklawn Park's $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on Monday to begin the track's series for Kentucky Derby hopefuls.
The one-mile Smarty Jones is the first of three stakes leading up to the $1 million Arkansas Derby. Coming up next for 3-year-olds will be the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18 followed by the Rebel on March 16 with the Arkansas Derby on April 13.
Ridden by Jon Court, Will Take Charge went off at 12-1 in the nine-horse field. The 9-5 favorite was Always in a Tiz with Brown Almighty at 3-1 and Avare the third pick at 7-2.
Texas Bling, an 18-1 longshot, set the pace along with Avare. Will Take Charge was racing wide around the first turn and up the backstretch with Always in a Tiz running fifth.
Around the final turn Texas Bling had a short lead over Will Take Charge as the favorite moved into third. Texas Bling, winner of the Springboard Stakes at Remington Park, and Will Take Charge battled through the stretch as Always in a Tiz gained ground.
Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Will Take Charge edged Texas Bling by a neck at the wire with Always in a Tiz a head back in third. Stormy Holiday was fourth followed by Brown Almighty, Officer Alex, Avare, Best of Birdstone and King Henny.
Will Take Charge covered the mile in 1:38.64 on a fast track.
Owned by Willis Horton, Will Take Charge picked up his first stakes win and $90,000. The chestnut colt has won two of five starts for $184,171.
The colt finished his 2-year-old season with a second to Texas Bling in the Springboard Stakes on Dec. 9. He was coming off a 13th-place finish to Uncaptured in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Will Take Charge won in his second start after finishing fifth in his debut.
Will Take Charge returned $26.20, $14.60 and $7.00. Texas Bling paid $15.40 and $6.00, and Always In A Tiz paid $3.00 to show.