Hot Rod Charlie makes his last 3-year booth in San Antonio

First off, it was the blinders for Hot Rod Charlie. Next, turn signals for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Now the colt will end his 3-year-old season in Sunday’s Tier 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita without blinders.

Hot Rod Charlie, seen fending off Midnight Bourbon in the first-year Pennsylvania Derby in September, enters Sunday’s San Antonio Stakes as a 6/5 morning row favorite. (Image: Equi-Photo)

This is the case of coach Doug O’Neill who looks back on what previously worked for the Belmont Stakes runner-up and the Kentucky Derby third. He won the Pennsylvania Derby and the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, although he was disqualified and placed seventh at the Haskell due to interference.

Even then, O’Neill saw enough of the Oxbow colt’s immaturity to put on French blinders ahead of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. There, with the smaller style blinkers, Hot Rod Charlie finished a game fourth behind Knicks Go. He issued the only serious challenge to the so-called Horse of the Year.

“He was a little erratic on the track in two races leading up to the Classic, so we figured the blinders would be helpful in the Breeders’ Cup,” O’Neill told Ed Golden of Santa Anita. “But we’re taking them off for San Antonio and I think we’ll find out more after the race.”

Favorite Hot Rod Charlie vs. Older Horses

San Antonio Sunday is one of six stakes races on Santa Anita’s traditional opening day after Christmas. The 2nd year test, 1 1/16 mile, places Hot Rod Charlie against older horses for the second time in a row, which places Hot Rod Charlie as the favorite of the 6/5 morning line.

The San Antonio is one of the main preparations for the handicap of Santa Anita of the first year of March. In the case of Hot Rod Charlie, this could serve as preparation for a Middle East excursion to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup on March 26. Greg Helm, who runs Roadrunner Racing – one of the four entities that own the colt – said the plan was to have Hot Rod Charlie race at the age of 4. And the Middle East was a target.

And why not? Hot Rod Charlie cashed over $ 2 million in 2021, going 2-1-2 in his seven runs. Five of the seven were first graders. The rest were high-stakes events, showing that O’Neill and Hot Rod Charlie have entered high profile competitions throughout the year. His two silver wins in the Triple Crown events and his courageous fourth place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic bear witness to that.

“He’s training well and we’re excited about opening day,” said O’Neill.

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