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Hot Rod Charlie Wires Louisiana Derby
Credit: Hodges Photography

Hot Rod Charlie Wires Louisiana Derby

NEW ORLEANS, LA – West coast invader Hot Rod Charlie took it to the locals early and never relented in a gate-to-wire effort to win Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.

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Hot Rod Charlie broke alertly from post 5 under Joel Rosario and went straight to the front, where the Lecomte Stakes (G3) winner Midnight Bourbon applied constant pressure through opening fractions of :23.10, :47.04, and 1:11.25.

Midnight Bourbon made his bid near the top of the stretch, but Hot Rod Charlie displayed shades of his 2013 Preakness Stakes (G1)-winning sire Oxbow as he continued churning the long drive home.

From the 1/4 pole to the wire, victory was never in doubt before Hot Rod Charlie strode across 2 lengths the best, completing the 1 3/16-mile fast dirt route in 1:55.06.

“He broke well, and in the first turn, I found myself on the lead,” Rosario said. “Working with him in the morning, he relaxes and you don’t have to get him in the race. It worked out really well. He handled the distance very well. Very impressive. With the horse coming on his outside, he really fought back.”

Credit: Hodges Photography

Though unable to properly advance upon the leader, Midnight Bourbon grinded out a runner-up effort by a head over a streaking O Besos, who passed Proxy – runner-up in both the Lecomte and Risen Star Stakes (G2) – to take third by 1 3/4 lengths.

“We got a perfect trip, and turning for home, I had a lot of horse and I thought we had it,” said Midnight Bourbon jockey Joe Talamo. “We just got outfinished. Hats off to the winner, he ran huge and fought back on me. I think this distance suits this horse and I think he will be fine (going forward).”

Starrininmydreams, the 6/5 favorite Mandaloun (the Risen Star winner), Rightandjust, and Run Classic completed the order of finish.

He was flat and we’re disappointed,” said Mandaloun’s trainer Brad Cox. “I was happy with the trip; he was three-wide and stalking the winner, but at the 1/2-mile pole, it looked like we were in trouble. I have no excuse right now, we’ll just have to see. It’s frustrating, but it’s part of it. I can’t ask him to train any better and I don’t think I would have done anything different. We’ll just regroup.”

The Louisiana Derby is part of the Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Hot Rod Charlie earned 100 points for the win, with Midnight Bourbon receiving 40 for second, O Besos 20 for third, and Proxy 10 for fourth.

Hot Rod Charlie’s win was his first of the year and improved his overall record to 7-2-1-2 with $1,005,700 earned for co-owners Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, and Bill Strauss. Hot Rod Charlie officially raced under the name of assistant trainer Leandro Mora, as trainer Doug O’Neill was currently serving a suspension for a drug positive against another horse in the barn.

We are so extremely blessed, said Patrick O’Neill of Boat Racing. “What an amazing horse. An amazing sport. We’re going to the Kentucky Derby.”

Hot Rod Charlie returned $7.80 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3.60 to show. Midnight Bourbon brought back $7.20 to place and $4.40 to show. O Besos paid $7.80 to show.

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