Hard-luck jockey teams up with barn’s underdog for Rebel win
By J.J. Hysell
The Coach couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
A dandy D. Wayne Lukas duel developed in the stretch of Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, with never-say-quit Oxbow on the inside and incalculable Will Take Charge mustering his best effort to the wire.
All week long, Lukas raved about his unflappable Oxbow. In an interview with HRTV, he deemed him “the toughest little horse I’ve probably trained ever.” Lukas lured marquee rider Mike Smith for the mount and Jon Court, who was aboard Oxbow for a fourth place finish in the Risen Star, teamed up with the less heralded and unpredictable 28-1 longshot Will Take Charge.
Smith planted the free-striding Oxbow, the second betting choice at 3-1, firmly on the rail in the stretch and he appeared in control. Will Take Charge emerged as the lone challenger in the center lane, barreling – or more like lumbering – into the final furlong. Despite blinkers, he weaved in toward his stablemate. Court tugged him back in place and coaxed a few more long lunges out of the chestnut, just enough to put his head in front at the wire.
The two colts remained neck-and-neck on the gallop out. Smith turned and said something to Court – we’ll likely never know what – and Court dropped his right reign for a split second to wave triumphantly.
The winning margin for Court and Will Take Charge wasn’t a head. It was a heart.
Court’s been bounced from so many big-time mounts it’s profound. Lest we forget he was bucked from John Sadler’s Line of David after his Arkansas Derby win in 2010 and replaced with Rafael Bejarano. When Court did get his first chance in the Run for the Roses in 2011, his mount Archarcharch drew the dreaded rail and left the track in an ambulance with a career-ending fracture after finishing 15th.
In Will Take Charge, Court aligned with a contender who mirrors his underdog persona – the one they didn’t anticipate and now must estimate.