In the days leading up to the 147th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1), usracing.com is publishing profiles of all the contenders. The 1 ¼-mile Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs is May 1, and the first leg of the Triple Crown. All profiles will be updated with post positions, odds, and jockeys following the draw on Tuesday, April 27.
By Lynne Snierson
Hot Rod Charlie is coming in hot to Kentucky but this time he won’t be flying under the radar in America’s greatest race as he did as a 2-year-old by running second to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland at 94-1 odds.
“He’s such a talented colt. He’s a tall, rangy colt,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who won the Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and in 2016 with Nyquist. “The picture looks pretty clear and pretty nice to me at this time. But as we all know in this sport, it’s one day at a time. I think Hot Rod Charlie has a big, big chance. We think we’re bringing a super talented colt to Churchill and with a little bit of luck we’ll be right there at the wire.”
O’Neill knows his horse, who took the Louisiana Derby last out. But making the acquaintance wasn’t instantaneous with this colt, who is a half-brother to Mitole, the champion sprinter and four-time G1 winner. Hot Rod Charlie began his career in a pair of sprints, one on dirt and the other on grass, and stayed on the third for his third start. He didn’t break his maiden until Oct. 2 while stretching out to 1-mile on the main track. That win propelled him into the BC Juvenile.
O’Neill knows a bit about successfully running a horse in the Derby, as evidenced by his record of two wins in six starts.
Hot Rod Charlie, a son of 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow and a maternal grandson of 1998 Derby third place finisher Indian Charlie, is a frequent flyer and ideal traveler and that is also giving his trainer confidence.
“He’s a real sociable colt. He’s a huge asset to our barn, and he’s shown his maturity in shipping to places like Kentucky already for Breeders’ Cup and to Louisiana,’’ said O’Neill.
Post position: TBD
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Owners: Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing & William Strauss
Career record: 7-2-1-2
Career earnings: $1,005,700
Derby qualifying points: 110 (2nd)
Top Equibase speed figure: 100
Pedigree: Oxbow-Indian Miss by Indian Charlie
Color: Dark Bay
Running style: Versatile
Notes: O’Neill had offered the mount to Joel Rosario and was waiting for the rider’s decision whether to stick with Baffert’s Concert Tour. Rosario chose Concert Tour, so O’Neill offered it to Flavien Prat, who was working the colt. When Concert Tour was removed from contention, the connections stuck with Prat. “Both Joel and Flavien are world-class riders. We huddled up and said we’re going to be in great shape whether we have Joel or Flavien,” O’Neill said … Prat (3 1-0-1) won the 2019 Derby aboard Country House after Maximum Security was DQ’d … Roadrunner Racing is a partnership headed by Greg Helm, a former advertising executive and current vice president of Desert Classic Charities.
Patrick O’Neill is a 28-year-old Brown graduate and vice president for sales and strategic partnerships at Founder Sport Group. O’Neill, along with Brown University frat brothers and football teammates Eric Armagost, Dan Giovaccini, Reiley Higgins, and Alex Quoyeser, comprise Boat Racing. William Strauss was co-founder and CEO of Proflowers.com, an online floral boutique, and currently sits on the board of the Thoroughbred Owners of California … Said the trainer, “Patrick knows the sport, but his buddies were turned on to the sport through him, which is a beautiful thing. When they moved into their frat house Patrick’s biggest plea was that we’ve got to get TVG on the living room TV. They were like what the heck is TVG? … Hot Rod Charlie worked at Santa Anita April 17 and went 6 furlongs in 1:14.20.
Lynne Snierson, a former director of communications at Arlington Park and Rockingham Park, currently is a freelance writer and racing publicist. She covered thoroughbred racing as an award-winning sportswriter for newspapers In Boston, Miami, and St. Louis. She lives in New Hampshire. Secretariat remains her all-time favorite horse.