Will Take Charge, Strong Mandate work out at Oaklawn - NBC Sports

Will Take Charge, Strong Mandate work out at Oaklawn
February 3, 2014, 12:00 am

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas didn't let Sunday morning rain at Oaklawn Park throw his schedule off and sent several horses in his barn out for workouts, including champion Will Take Charge and Strong Mandate.

Will Take Charge breezed a half-mile in :49 4/5 over the sloppy track, while the three-year-old Strong Mandated posted the bullet, best of 76, at the same distance in :48 3/5.

Will Take Charge scored in Oaklawn's Smarty Jones and Rebel Stakes last year before going on to capture Travers, Pennsylvania Derby and Clark Handicap with a nose second in the Breeders' Cup Classic thrown in.

The four-year-old chestnut son of Unbridled's Song is schedule to leave Oaklawn on Monday for South Florida, where he will make his seasonal debut as the 123-pound highweight in the Grade 1, $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on February 9.

Owner Willis Horton said earlier this week that Will Take Charge's early season campaign will consist of the Donn; Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 8; and the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 12.

"In light of the track, I thought the work went real well," Lukas said of Will Take Charge's move. "I was very pleased. It was aggressive, strong and I wouldn't change a thing."

Hopeful hero Strong Mandate, last seen running third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in early November, is preparing to start his year in Oaklawn's Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest, the highlight of the February 17 Presidents Day card.

"His work was just awesome," Lukas stated about the Tiznow sophomore. "I was really impressed. It had to be the bullet."

One of those Strong Mandate will face in the Southwest is Springboard Mile winner Louies Flower, who took one step closer to making his seasonal debut in that 1 1/16-mile contest when breezing five furlongs in 1:02 2/5 Sunday over Oaklawn's sloppy track.

"It was a very good work," trainer Bret Calhoun declared. "We had actually planned to work him a little harder, but in light of the track, we decided to be conservative. We've been lucky that despite weather lately, we've been able to keep him on schedule. He's exactly where we want him to be."

Louies Flower will be looking for his fourth straight victory in the Southwest. The Flower Alley colt broke his maiden in his third start going 5 1/2 furlongs on October 2 at Remington, and has since won his last two starts at one mile.

"He's gotten good at the right time," Calhoun remarked. "He's just getting better and better both mentally and physically."

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