October 24, 2021

Hot Rod Charlie keeps Midnight Bourbon at bay in Pennsylvania Derby

Hot Rod Charlie survived an objection to take the Pennsylvania Derby (Photo By Bill Denver/Equi-Photo)

The rivalry between Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon remained in a lopsided state after Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx, when the former led all the way under Flavien Prat to win the 1 1/8-mile feature by 2 1/4 lengths and secured what had been an elusive first top-level victory.

For the second straight meeting, though, there was some controversy. In the July 17 Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park, Hot Rod Charlie bore in when attempting to pass a tiring Midnight Bourbon, which caused the latter to clip heels and lose his rider. Hot Rod Charlie was disqualified from first and placed last.

Entering the stretch of the Pennsylvania Derby, Hot Rod Charlie bore out into the lane occupied by Midnight Bourbon and briefly carried that rival out. However, after a review, the stewards found any contact incidental and dismissed their own inquiry, as well as the objection lodged by Midnight Bourbon’s jockey, Ricardo Santana Jr.

“I was pretty confident they were not going to take him down,” winning trainer Doug O’Neill said. “This one did not seem as dramatic as the Monmouth race.

“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. 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.”

Hot Rod Charlie has now finished ahead of Midnight Bourbon in all four of their meetings. The pair ran one-two in the Louisiana Derby (G2) in March, and in the Kentucky Derby (G1) in May, Hot Rod Charlie finished third while Midnight Bourbon finished a troubled sixth.

Running one-two from start to finish, Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon outclassed their six Pennsylvania Derby rivals. Finishing 4 1/2 lengths adrift of Midnight Bourbon in third was Americanrevolution. Fulsome, Bourbonic, Speaker’s Corner, I Am Redeemed, and Weyburn completed the order of finish.

Owned by Boat Racing, Gainesway Stable, Roadrunner Racing, and William Strauss, Hot Rod Charlie paid $3.80 after covering the distance over a fast track in 1:48.63.

Hot Rod Charlie will now train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, where he’s scheduled to meet division leader Essential Quality for a fourth time. The pair first met in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland, where Essential Quality edged the 94-1 Hot Rod Charlie, who had just broken his maiden in his fourth start, by three parts of a length.

Third by a neck to Medina Spirit in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) in January prior to his Louisiana Derby triumph, Hot Rod Charlie was beaten a length in the Kentucky Derby while out-finishing Essential Quality by a head. But that rival earned revenge by 1 1/4 lengths in the Belmont S. (G1) after runner-up Hot Rod Charlie set a strong pace. Hot Rod Charlie’s most recent outing was the aforementioned Haskell.

Bred in Kentucky by Edward Cox Jr., Hot Rod Charlie sold for $110,000 at the Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale. He’s an Oxbow half-brother to 2020 male sprint champion Mitole. Both were produced by the Indian Charlie mare Indian Miss.

Hot Rod Charlie now sports a record of 11-3-2-3, $2,171,200.