D. Wayne Lukas was the leading trainer in the United States (by earnings) for 10 straight years between 1983-1992. The venerable trainer also has four Kentucky Derby victories but the last one came way back in 1999.
The past 15 years has seen the likes of Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen take over the mantle of top trainer in the country as the three have combined for the money title 13 times since 1998.
However, the door has not been closed on Lukas, especially after two of his colts finished one-two in this past Saturday's Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Will Take Charge stormed past stablemate Oxbow to win by a head in 1:45 for the 1 1/16-mile race. The winner is now No. 1 in the point standings with 60, 10 ahead of four others. In addition, the colt has totaled over $500,000 in career earnings.
The half-brother to Take Charge Indy, the 19th-place finisher in last year's Kentucky Derby, was sent off at 28-1 odds after losing by 18 lengths to Super Ninety Nine in last month's Southwest Stakes.
Nonetheless, that event was raced in the slop, and the fast surface in the Rebel was all that Will Take Charge needed to turn the tables. The Lukas- trained colt recorded a Beyer Figure of 95 in the win
Even though the 1:45 was the slowest running of the Rebel since 1990, older fillies and mares ran the same 1 1/16-mile distance a tick slower in the Azeri Stakes one race prior. In fact, it was the slowest running in the 27-year history of that race.
Still, it is doubtful Will Take Charge will be a factor in the Kentucky Derby. His sire, Unbridled's Song, is not known as a 10-furlong sire of males. In addition, Will Take Charge's lone start at Churchill Downs - the Kentucky Jockey Club - was a disaster. He ran last beaten over 25 lengths by Uncaptured.
Oxbow, D. Wayne Lukas's other colt, once again was as game as they come. It was his third straight race with the lead at the 1/8-pole. Unfortunately, he's been able to win just one of them. He came through the first time in the Lecomte Stakes, but lost by a half-length (finishing fourth) in the Risen Star Stakes followed by the head loss in the Rebel.
The odds are stronger that Oxbow will put forth a better effort than Will Take Charge in the Kentucky Derby, but as is the case with his stablemate, don't expect Oxbow to be at his best going 1 1/4 miles.
Both colts will have one more start before the first Saturday in May. It's expected Lukas will send Will Take Charge to Keeneland for the Blue Grass while Oxbow will remain at Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby.
SUPER NINETY NINE TAKES A STEP BACK
Super Ninety Nine, the favorite in the Rebel, did not race like a horse sent off at 6-5 odds. After winning the Southwest Stakes by 11 1/4 lengths, the Bob Baffert-trained colt finished a disappointing fifth, beaten close to 8 1/2 lengths. Texas Bling, a horse Super Ninety Nine defeated by over 20 lengths in the Southwest, even finished ahead of the son of Pulpit in the Rebel.
Super Ninety Nine had no excuses, despite being saddled with post position 11. It didn't take him long to get a comfortable position behind Title Contender around the first turn and then the lead around the far turn. However, once he was challenged by Oxbow approaching the top of the stretch he flattened out like a flat tire.
Nevertheless, it was still a better performance than the one shown by Treasury Bill. Ron Ellis' upstart 3-year-old was sent off as the 4-1 third choice but the colt ran more like a 40-1 shot.
Good things were expected for Treasury Bill after closing stoutly in the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita, but the chestnut colt was never a factor in the Rebel finishing a well-beaten eighth. He could not even get past his entrymate, Title Contender, who busted out to a 23 1/5 first quarter and had the lead through a half in 47 seconds.
Even with the disappointing finishes by Super Ninety Nine and Treasury Bill, the horse that failed the most was Delhomme.
The third-place finisher in last year's Remsen Stakes made his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel and it was a disaster. Delhomme was eased under the wire by jockey Garrett Gomez as the 9-2 fourth choice.
It is interesting to note that the top three finishers in last year's Remsen Stakes all have failed to fire in their initial 2013 start.
Overanalyze, the winner, came back to finish fifth as the 8-5 favorite in the Gotham Stakes. Normandy Invasion, the tough luck loser in the Remsen, returned to also run fifth as the 3-2 favorite in the Risen Star, and Delhomme, the Remsen's third-place horse, couldn't even finish the Rebel.
THE JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"
1) Verrazano - Looks to break the Apollo curse on Derby Day
2) Itsmyluckyday - Posting bullet works for Florida Derby
3) Orb - Could give Shug McGaughey his first Derby victory
4) Uncaptured - Makes 2013 debut on Saturday in Spiral
5) Normandy Invasion - Wood is last chance to make Derby
6) Flashback - Jockey change to Garrett Gomez should help
7) Vyjack - Trainer suspended 20 days for positive drug tests
8) Hear the Ghost - Back on Work tab after San Felipe win
9) Shanghai Bobby - Could turn the tables on Itsmyluckyday
10) Revolutionary - Must break better in Louisiana Derby
11) Code West - Will ship to Louisiana later this month
12) Palace Malice - Posted a 5-furlong 1:00 work on March 17