Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas didnâ€™t let Sunday morning rain throw his schedule off and sent several horses in his barn out for workouts, including Champion Will Take Charge and Strong Mandate. The 4-year-old Will Take Charge, breezed a half mile in 49 4/5 over a sloppy track, while the 3-year-old Strong Mandated posted the bullet at the same distance of 48 3/5.
Willis Hortonâ€™s Will Take Charge, winner of Oaklawnâ€™s Smarty Jones and Rebel Stakes last year, is schedule to leave Monday for South Florida where he will make his seasonal debut as the 123 highweight in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park Feb. 8. Horton said earlier this week that Will Take Chargeâ€™s early season campaign will consist of the Donn, Santa Anita Handicap March 8 and the Oaklawn Handicap April 12.
â€œIn light of the track, I thought the work went real well,â€ said Lukas of Will Take Chargeâ€™s move. â€œI was very pleased. It was aggressive, strong and I wouldnâ€™t change a thing.â€
Robert Baker and William Mackâ€™s Strong Mandate, last seen running third in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Juvenile last November, is preparing to start his year in Oaklawnâ€™s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3), the highlight of the Monday, Feb. 17 Presidents Day card.
â€œHis work was just awesome,â€ said Lukas. â€œI was really impressed. It had to be the bullet.â€
Louies Flower Progresses Toward Southwest Stakes
Wesley Melcherâ€™s Springboard Mile winner Louies Flower took one step closer to making his seasonal debut in the Southwest Stakes when he breezed five furlongs in 1:02 2/5 Sunday over a sloppy track.
â€œIt was a very good work,â€ said trainer Bret Calhoun. â€œWe had actually planned to work him a little harder, but in light of the track, we decided to be conservative. Weâ€™ve been lucky that despite weather lately, weâ€™ve been able to keep him on schedule. Heâ€™s exactly where we want him to be.â€
Louies Flower, a Flower Alley colt, will be looking for his fourth straight victory in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest. He broke his maiden in his third start at 5 Â½ furlongs October 2 at Remington, and then has won his last two starts at one mile.
â€œHeâ€™s gotten good at the right time,â€ said Calhoun. â€œHeâ€™s just getting better and better both mentally and physically.â€
Gentlemenâ€™s Bet Leads King Cotton Nominations
Breedersâ€™ Cup Sprint third-place finisher Gentlemenâ€™s Bet is among the 25 horses nominated to the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes next Saturday. The 5-year-old Half Ours horse moved closer to an expected start in the six furlong race by working a half mile in 50 3/5 Saturday over a fast track.
â€œIt was exactly what we were looking for,â€ said trainer Ron Moquet, who trains Gentlemenâ€™s Bet for Harry Rosenblum of Hot Springs. â€œWeâ€™re expecting big things from him. Iâ€™ve always had big expectations for him and heâ€™s never let me down.â€
Others expected for the race are Apprehender and Alsvid, the one-two finishers of the 2013 edition of the King Cotton.
Multiple Stakes Winner Donâ€™t Tell Sophia Fires Bullet
Phil Sims and Jerry Namyâ€™s multiple stakes winner Donâ€™t Tell Sophia posted a bullet five furlong Saturday in 1:01 over a fast track as she prepares to defend her title in the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes Feb. 16. Last year, the Congaree mare won both the Pippin and Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn and has already successfully defended her Pippin title this meet, winning the race by 1 Â½ lengths Jan. 25.
â€œIt was a good maintenance work for her,â€ said Sims, who also trains the mare. â€œShe did it real easy. Sheâ€™s on schedule for the Bayakoa.â€
Jockey Channing Hill, who rode Donâ€™t Tell Sophia in the Pippin, was aboard for the work Saturday.
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