Given absolutely no chance in a field of 14, Hot Rod Charlie shocked the racing world by running a huge race in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His startling run at Keeneland to finish a good second, beaten less than a length by the soon to be champion Essential Quality, came at odds of 94-1.
The son of the 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow is unlikely to be dismissed at those kind of odds ever again. He’ll get the chance to prove his Breeders’ Cup performance was no fluke when he makes his seasonal debut on Saturday at Santa Anita in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis.
Contested around two turns at 1 1/16 miles, the Lewis offers 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a scale of 10-4-2-1 and has produced a number of top Derby candidates over the years, including the likes of Sham, Ferdinand, Charismatic and Dortmund. Hot Rod Charlie will look to join the distinguished list on Saturday.
Purchased for $110,000 as a yearling, the handsome dark bay is out of the Indian Charlie mare Indian Miss. This makes him a half-brother to the brilliant 2019 Male Sprint Champion Mitole, who is by Eskendereya.
Hot Rod Charlie began his career less than brilliantly. He started by running fourth and then third in a pair of sprints, one on dirt and the other on grass. His third start also came on turf, and he finished fifth while stretching out to a mile. Returning to dirt for his fourth start and getting blinkers for the first time, the light bulb turned on for the well-bred colt.
He earned his first career victory in early October when he won a hard fought maiden special weight race over the well-regarded Parnelli. The pair left the rest of the field far, far back and Parnelli has since come back with several quality results.
That victory was enough to send Hot Rod Charlie to Kentucky for his strong run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Hot Rod Charlie is trained by Doug O'Neill and owned by Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing and Strauss Bros Racing. O’Neill clearly knows the path to the Kentucky Derby, having won with I'll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016.
I’ll Have Another, who won the Derby and the Preakness nine years ago, began his sophomore season as a long-shot winner of the Lewis. Can the trainer strike lightning for a third time?
Hot Rod Charlie is one of three interesting candidates for the Kentucky Derby from the O’Neill barn. He’s joined by Wipe the Slate, who is also expected for Saturday’s Lewis, as well as The Great One, who romped home a 14-length winner in a maiden race this past Saturday.
Hot Rod Charlie and Wipe the Slate went off at 40-1 and 87-1, respectively, in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagering, which closed on Sunday. The Great One was part of the “All Others” group, as his big maiden win came after the list was announced.
Working well for what will be his first race in 12 weeks, Hot Rod Charlie looks ready to validate his strong showing at Keeneland on Nov. 6. He’s also been flattered by the success of Parnelli since he beat him in that maiden race before the Breeders’ Cup.
Rounding out his connections will be a top jockey. Fresh off a front-running win in the rich Pegasus World Cup aboard Knicks Go, Joel Rosario will be in the saddle on Saturday. It will be his first time riding the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up.
It’s still a long way to the Kentucky Derby, though — 96 days, to be exact — and first things must come first.
Hot Rod Charlie will have every chance to build on his excellent result in the Breeders’ Cup and prove himself Derby worthy. His road to Louisville and the first Saturday in May will begin a few thousand miles away in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.
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