Roadrunner Racing, William Strauss, Boat Racing & Gainesway Stable's HOT ROD CHARLIE with jockey Flavient Prat onboard scored a front-running victory on Saturday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx Racing. It was HOT ROD CHARLIE's first Grade 1 victory of his career, and the achievement almost escaped him yet again. For the second race in a row, the post-race inquiry flashed at him after he'd crossed the line first, only this time he survived the ruling and was awarded the win.
"It's so big," winning trainer Doug O'Neill said of HOT ROD CHARLIE's first Grade 1 win. "It still hasn't sunk in. He has had so many hard fought races and to not have a Grade 1 on his resume seemed so unfortunate for a horse as good as he is. It's good to finally get it."
Sent off at odds 3-5, HOT ROD CHARLIE broke well and joined a line of horses challenging for the lead, but emerged with it as they rounded the first turn. MIDNIGHT BOURBON was a half-length back in second, pressing the issue through opening quarters of 23.52 and 47.07. They raced through the backstretch with positions virtually unchanged; the top two favorites were glued to each other, while WEYBURN, SPEAKER'S CORNER, and AMERICANREVOLUTION made up the second flight, no more than two lengths back.
Turning for home, MIDNIGHT BOURBON loomed up menacingly alongside HOT ROD CHARLIE, paving way for a great confrontation. But Flavien Prat used strategic racing-riding and floated their challenger wide into the stretch, profiting by maybe a length by the time they set down for the drive.
MIDNIGHT BOURBON kept on willingly down the lane, but could not catch HOT ROD CHARLIE who was not to be denied today; he accelerated with good energy and held his rival at bay to win by 2 1/2 comfortable lengths at the end.
MIDNIGHT BOURBON would have to settle for second. It was another five lengths back to AMERICAN REVOLUTION in third.
The final time for the one mile and one-eighth was 1:48.63.
HOT ROD CHARLIE paid $3.80 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.10 to show. Bred by Edward A. Cox Jr., he's a three-year-old colt by OXBOW out of INDIAN MISS by INDIAN CHARLIE. He improves his record to 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 3 thirds from 11 total starts, pushes his earnings to over $2.17 million, and achieves a new top speed figure.
"Charlie is a rock star," winning trainer Doug O'Neill said. "I'm just a roadie but I am a pumped roadie, that's for sure."
Ricardo Santana Jr. filed an objection after the race, but after several minutes of review, the original result was not changed.
"I could tell Charlie did not corner as well as he could. But it didn't seem like he affected (Midnight) Bourbon at all, thank God," O'Neill said after the race. "He seemed like he was clear. Flavien had mentioned maybe putting a set of cheaters on him again. He said he got a little distracted being on the lead, kind of looking around and that might have caused him not to corner as well as he could have."
Prat found himself on the hot seat yet again, having to answer for his performance in the stretch. But he insisted that all was cool.
"I was under control the whole race," Prat told the Parx publicity team
"He broke well and we got ourselves to the lead. He likes to be forwardly placed. When it was time to go, he kind of looked around. When it was time to go, he kind of messed around and swapped leads. I am really happy for the whole team and the connections. I thought I was on the best horse. He was training absolutely perfect going into the race. I was under control for the whole race."
Steve Asmussen, trainer of runner-up MIDNIGHT BOURBON, chimed in after the race: "Flavien Prat almost drops Midnight Bourbon for the second time. My horse ran well. He survived."
We have not seen the last of the MIDNIGHT BOURBON vs. HOT ROD CHARLIE saga! They are both pointed toward the Breeder's Cup Classic at Del Mar, where they could clash in the stretch for the fourth straight time; they have not failed to find each other turning for home. It's turning to an exciting rivalry, so stay tuned!
Source: Equibase, Horse Racing Nation