HOT ROD CHARLIE's win in the Louisiana Derby (G2) this past weekend has shuffled the Kentucky Derby deck of cards. On the one hand, he flattered several of his fellow Derby hopefuls. On the other, he exposed weaknesses in about as many of them. In this edition of our Derby Profile we'll discuss HOT ROD CHARLIE's rise to the top of the rankings, how he looks to fare in the Derby, and what it means for the particular few Derby rivals he faced in the past.
HOT ROD CHARLIE owns 110 total points for his Road to the Kentucky Derby, 100 of those points earned from his recent Louisiana Derby score, 8 points from his second-place finish in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile (G1), and 2 points for his third-place finish in the Robert B. Lewis (G3).
On paper, his best race so far may still be Breeder's Cup Juvenile, despite his impressive Louisiana Derby score. In the Breeder's Cup Juvenile he earned an Equibase Figure of 100 against ESSENTIAL QUALITY who was much the best that day. But to HOT ROD CHARLIE's credit, he made a superb middle-move from the back of the pack, to get up to second as they got to the turn. He ended up running his fastest middle and late speed combination to date, showing his ability to turn on the jets early on and sustain his run through the stretch.
More impressively, HOT ROD CHARLIE's average Equibase Figure for his past four starts is a 97, indicating his head has been in the game since last October. He's improving with every start, taking on all comers from coast to coast.
Versatility is in this colt's tool box. He can take the field gate to wire, race mid pack and pounce, or lay back and make one big late run. In the Louisiana Derby, for what was his seventh career start, he took the lead and ran relatively quick fractions. With the mild pressure of MIDNIGHT BOURBON, he set an upbeat pace of 23.10 for an opening quarter, 47.05 for the half mile. With three furlongs to go, Joel Rosario starts to ask him for run, but can't yet shake off MIDNIGHT BOURBON who stays on him. MIDNIGHT BOURBON ranges up to be within a neck of the lead and they hit the stretch together. They were just about on even terms coming down the lane, but the grit and determination of HOT ROD CHARLIE was too much. In victory, HOT ROD CHARLIE ran his last quarter in :22.8, finishing with gusto.
If we look at his pedigree, we see he is by OXBOW, who won the Preakness Stakes (G1). He has for a grandsire AWESOME AGAIN, who won the Breeder's Cup Classic (G1) which is run at one mile and a one-quarter. The Kentucky Derby distance shouldn't be a terrible asking for HOT ROD CHARLIE, although his sire OXBOW hasn't had much success with his progeny competing in classic distances. HOT ROD CHARLIE's raw talent would have to prevail over bloodline limitations. Note that he was purchased for $110,000 while OXBOW's stud fee is a fraction of that amount at $7,500. If there were high expectations of HOT ROD CHARLIE as youngin, it's hard not to be satisfied at this point.
HOT ROD CHARLIE has duked it out with the West, Midwest, and East three-year-old division. His win in the Louisiana Derby certainly flatters West Coast contenders MEDINA SPIRIT and ROMAN CENTURION, who finished ahead of him in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. HOT ROD CHARLIE also flatters ESSENTIAL QUALITY, obviosuly, for beating him rather convincingly in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile.
However, HOT ROD CHARLIE exposed weaknesses in PROXY and MANDALOUN. The blinkers didn't bring PROXY the win and will probably come off for his next race. MANDALOUN delivered a big head scratcher with his performance; sent off as the $1.30 to win favorite and running sixth, beaten eleven lengths by the winner. The trio of PROXY, MANDALOUN, and MIDNIGHT BOURBON have been continuously running competitive against each, but now it's MIDNIGHT BOURBON who emerges from the group. He showed up against HOT ROD CHARLIE, and with his second-place finish, MIDNIGHT BOURBON has never been off the board in all seven lifetime starts. We'll discuss MIDNIGHT BOURBON in an upcoming Derby Profile.
What will it take for HOT ROD CHARLIE to win the Kentucky Derby? Well we've hinted that he's on the right path in terms of speed figures. He's got early, middle, and late game ability. Maybe the major concern is not the horse but of the pilot — who will it be? His current jockey Joel Rosario might have to choose between him and CONCERT TOUR for the Kentucky Derby. If Joel Rosario were to choose CONCERT TOUR it'll be interesting to see who receives the invitation to take over. HOT ROD CHARLIE has had four different riders, and besides Joel Rosario, only Abel Cedillo registered a win on him.
As of now, HOT ROD CHARLIE looks to train up to the Kentucky Derby. He's not listed as a probable for any upcoming prep race. His 110 qualification points sealed his spot for the Kentucky Derby, and his connections expressed how thrilled they were of the opportunity. We'll probably see him back to working out in two weeks. Whether at Fair Grounds or Churchill, we'll wait to find out! Stay tuned.