All work for Derby contenders

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- While most of the top 3-year-olds here at Oaklawn Park got in their final, restrained preparation for the Arkansas Derby, Will Take Charge worked a mile Friday morning. The winner of the Rebel Stakes, he's training up to the Kentucky Derby.

The big chestnut colt was the first horse on the track when it opened for training. Breaking off at the sixteenth pole, Will Take Charge started quickly, running the opening half-mile in 47.62 seconds, and completed the mile in 1:40.80 on the official stopwatch of clocker Jim Hamilton. For the final half-mile, stablemate Order of Magnitude, a 3-year-old maiden, joined Will Take Charge and forced him to alter course in the lane.

To put the work in some perspective, the bullet, or fastest work of the morning, for a half-mile over the officially "fast" but rather dull surface was 48.80, turned in by an allowance-race winner named On The Loose Again. Exercise rider Rudy Quvedo, who probably weighs more than 140 pounds, was on Will Take Charge for the workout.

Although Will Take Charge didn't finish strongly, his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said it was "a positive move" for the big colt, who has been progressing "every time he goes to the track."

"You like to have a horse come around at the right time, and that's what he's doing," Lukas said. "When you're able to work a horse a mile this far out (from the Kentucky Derby), it lets you know where you are and what work you have to do."

The favorites for Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby were on the track Friday morning as well, and they all made a positive impression. War Academy, the 2-1 favorite in the morning line, galloped an easy mile. Oxbow, the Lecomte Stakes winner who's 5-2 for the Arkansas Derby, jogged the wrong way, his energy overflowing. He's also trained by Lukas, who said he didn't want the smoky bay colt to do too much on the eve of the big race. "If we had gone the right with him, he would have been too tough," Lukas said.

And Overanalyze, the 4-1 third choice in the morning line for the Arkansas Derby, put in a routine gallop. Stoutly restrained, he appeared to be full of energy.