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Under Joel Rosario, Hot Rod Charlie scored a front-running two-length triumph in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds, earning the Oxbow colt 100 qualifying points for the Derby on May 1, assuring him a spot in the 20-horse field.
“It was surprising that he went to the lead, but when he broke so sharply, Rosario made the decision to go, which some riders don’t like to do,” said trainer Doug O’Neill’s valued assistant Leandro Mora by phone from Dubai Sunday morning.
“Some riders kind of panic in that situation and pull back but Joel made the horse feel comfortable.”
Team O’Neill is hopeful another Santa Anita-based three-year-old will give it a Kentucky Derby trifecta with Hot Rod Charlie after victories with I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016.
“Hot Rod Charlie reminds me of I’ll Have Another, who had ups and downs before he became the horse he was at the end of his career,” Mora said. “He broke his maiden as a three-year-old, but was nothing but a speed horse early on. He got better with age, and Hot Rod Charlie is similar.”
A total of 19 horses have used the Santa Anita Derby in preparation for victory in the Kentucky Derby and five of the last nine winners of the Run for the Roses have called Santa Anita home: Authentic (2020), Justify (2018), Nyquist (2016), American Pharoah (2015) and I’ll Have Another (2012). American Pharoah and Justify also swept the Triple Crown.
Hot Rod Charlie Wires Louisiana Derby
“Charlie looked great this morning,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He flies back to California on Tuesday. I love the spacing (six weeks) leading up to the Kentucky Derby. It’s ideal. He’s proven to travel well. I’m very proud of my nephew Patrick (with Boat Racing). He’s a real good young man and I’m very excited for him and all of the owners.”
Rosario’s services, understandably, are in great demand. He also rode Concert Tour to an impressive victory for Bob Baffert in the Rebel Stakes.
“We’d love to keep Rosario but he also rides Concert Tour, so we’ll have to wait and see,” Mora said. “Maybe Baffert is considering Mike Smith (for Concert Tour, since Smith’s mount, Life Is Good, was declared off the Triple Crown trail yesterday after sustaining an injury following a workout).”
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