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A true hot rod named Charlie blazed his way through the Louisiana Bayou last weekend on his way to the Kentucky Derby (G1), but was his first stakes win a strong enough performance to warrant top honors when other graded stakes champions also found success? Find out in our latest Three Stars of the Week:
California-based Hot Rod Charlie took the field on a gate-to-wire romp in last Saturday’s Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds in the first true showdown between top Derby contenders from different circuits. After Midnight Bourbon, Mandaloun, and Proxy were easily the three best runners in both the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and Risen Star Stakes (G2) – the two earlier local Derby preps – several Derby prognosticators were excited to see what the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up would do. All he did was ship across the country and post a 99 Beyer Speed Figure that makes him dangerous in the Run for the Roses with any improvement. The biggest question now: did Hot Rod Charlie beat the Louisiana trio (only Midnight Bourbon hit the board, finishing second) because he’s that good, or is this circuit not as strong as was thought heading into the race? Only time will tell.
The highly-anticipated rematch between the last-out local Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) winner Clairiere and the runner-up Travel Column didn’t quite materialize, as Travel Column got the jump on Clairiere and was much the best in last Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). Unlike last time, when many questioned whether he rode Travel Column a bit too confidently, Florent Geroux let the Brad Cox-trained filly closely stalk the early pace before putting the field away in the far turn. Best of all, Geroux felt that she showed no signs of slowing down in the stretch, a key attribute as they prepare to stretch out an extra 1/16 of a mile for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and at least for now, Travel Column looks like the clear-cut division leader.
Long layoff? Long distance for the first start back? Short field? None of those hurdles tripped up the ultra-classy United, who returned with a bang to win last Saturday’s 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park despite facing in-form, improving rivals Acclimate, Masteroffoxhounds, and Say the Word. Trainer Richard Mandella has his sights set on a third trip to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), which will be held at nearby Del Mar this year; United was second in 2019 and eighth last year, though he took a bad step in the latter and was safely handled the rest of the race, his most recent start until the San Luis Rey.
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