One of America’s most consistent and talented 3-year-olds throughout 2021, Hot Rod Charlie heads a field of seven 3-year-olds and up in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita. An iconic prep to the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), the San Antonio will be run for the 84th time and is one of six graded stakes on a blockbuster 11-race opening day program.
Most recently fourth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths by presumptive Horse of the Year Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 6, Hot Rod Charlie has been a gem of consistency, while on occasion very unlucky, for O’Neill. A handy winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) two starts back on Sept. 25, he was disqualified from a hard fought nose victory three starts back in the Haskell Invitational (G1).
A massive second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by A-Lister Essential Quality in the Belmont Stakes June 5, he was a troubled third, beaten one length by Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby five starts back on May 1.
A winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2) in his second start of the year on March 20, Hot Rod Charlie is 7-2-1-2 on the year, with 2021 earnings of $2,087,500. Owned by Boat Racing, LLC, Gainesway Stable (Antony Beck), Roadrunner Racing & William Strauss, Hot Rod Charlie will reportedly use the San Antonio as a prep to the Group I Dubai World Classic in March.
Freshened since running third to Medina Spirit in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) Oct. 2, C R K Stable’s Express Train has been in the money in six out of his seven career starts at Santa Anita and rates a big chance off the bench. Trained by John Shirreffs, Express Train’s last win came three starts back in the San Diego Handicap (G2) on July 17. With an overall mark of 14-4-4-3, this 4-year-old colt by Union Rags has earnings of $695,800.
A half length winner of the Native Diver Handicap (G3) on Nov. 20, Bob Baffert’s Azul Coast could rate second billing as he seeks his second graded stakes win. Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Azul Coast, who has four wins from 10 starts, will be ridden for the first time by John Velazquez.
2021 San Antonio Stakes (G2)
|Rank||Silks||Horse / Sire||Rating||Trainer / Jockey||Last Start||Status|
|Hot Rod Charlie|
|Kiss Today Goodbye|