As the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar looms in early November, trainers are plotting their course to the Seaside Oval. One talented three year old with eyes on the prize has now decided his road to these World Championships runs through Pennsylvania.
Hot Rod Charlie has been one of the most exciting members of the 2021 class of three-year old males. After nearly shocking the world at odds of 94 to 1 in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, this son of Oxbow has turned in some sparkling performances in 2021.His run in the Louisiana Derby gave us another glimpse of his heart as he took a talented field gate to wire in winning at a mile and three sixteenths. In the Kentucky Derby a challenging trip saw him finish just a length from the front. And oh my his Belmont drive was as courageous as Davy Crockett as he set a blistering pace before finishing a very game second to Essential Quality in the mile and a half “test of a champion”.
Following a brief freshening, trainer Doug O’Neill tuned up his Hot Rod and sent him off in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Unveiling more of his racing repertoire, Charlie stalked a solid pace before swinging wide at the top of the stretch and forging to the lead. Dueling down the lane with a hard running Mandaloun, Hot Rod was all heart as he crossed the finish line first. Following the race, O’Neill’s charge was disqualified as he drifted in and was cited for interfering with Midnight Bourbon, a horse he had clearly passed.
The best news about the Haskell was no one was hurt. Hot Rod’s run may have not netted a winner’s share of the purse money or a nice shiny trophy, but it did tell us all once again he is a real race horse with the ability to win against anyone.
With the bigger picture in mind, which is the Breeders’ Cup, Charlie’s cunning California-based conditioner is targeting the Pennsylvania Derby. Run on September 25 at Parx Racing facility in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, this grade 1 mile and an eighth race for three-year olds hits this Hot Rod right between the eyes.
“Charlie came out of the Haskell in good shape and he has been doing great”, says O’Neill, who will be looking for his first win in this race. “The spacing is just right for the Breeders’ Cup and it’s a chance to run against only three-year olds again.”
Shipping across country has never been a concern for O’Neill with this heart-filled horse. A run over the Parx dirt would mark the eighth time he has toed a different track in eleven lifetime starts.
“He is a horse that travels like he’s on vacation”, says O’Neill. “His fantastic demeanor makes it easier on us. Pennsylvania Derby here we come ! “