By Tim Wilkin, for PARX Racing (EquiPhoto photos)
Bensalem, Pa. (Saturday, September 25, 2021) – The first career Grade 1 victory came to Roadrunner Racing, Williams Strauss, Boat Racing and Gainesway Stables’ Hot Rod Charlie in Saturday’s 41st running of the Grade I, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby. But it did not come without controversy.
The ownership group, trainer Doug O’Neill, jockey Flavien Prat and Hot Rod Charlie had to survive jockey’s objection from second place finisher Ricardo Santana, who was aboard Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon
Heading into the stretch off the turn, Hot Rod Charlie noticeably drifted out in front of Midnight Bourbon but it appeared he was clear of that rival. Prat then got Hot Rod Charlie, who led from the start, to the finish line 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Midnight Bourbon.
This was the second straight race the two horses competed against each other that involved the stewards. In the July 17 Haskell at Monmouth, Hot Charlie was disqualified from first to last after interfering with Midnight Bourbon in the stretch. In that race, Midnight Bourbon fell.
After some anxious moments Saturday, the results stood and Hot Rod Charlie had his Grade 1.
“I was pretty confident they were not going to take him down,” O’Neill said. “Flavien said he got a little distracted being on the lead. He was kind of looking around and that might have caused him not to corner as well as he could have. For this to come on top of his last race, this was definitely exaggerated. Thank God he was clear and didn’t cause any interference.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen did not see the incident the same way.
“Flavien Prat almost drops Midnight Bourbon for the second time,” he said. “My horse ran well. He survived.”
Hot Rod Charlie, the 4-5 favorite, got his second win in six starts this year to go along with a second and two thirds. For his career, he has three wins in 11 career starts. He was third in the Kentucky Derby.
Hot Rod Charlie ran the 1 1/8 miles over the fast track in 1:48.63. Midnight Bourbon, 7-2, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., was 4 ½ lengths in front of Americanrevolution, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and ridden by Luis Saez.
Fulsom, trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux was fourth and was followed by Bourbonic (Pletcher, Kendrick Carmouche), Speaker’s Corner (Bill Mott, Jose Ortiz), I Am Redeemed (Penny Pearce, Abner Adorno) and Weyburn (Jimmy Jerkens, Paco Lopez).
O’Neill said Hot Rod Charlie will head back to California on Tuesday and will be pointed next to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
“When you have speed and staminia and class, you can do some crazy, cool things,” O’Neill said. “He displayed today that he has some special qualities that, if he stays injury free, could lead to some big stuff in November.”
Order of Finish: 7, 8 10, 1, 6, 3, 5, 4
Lengths: 2 ¼, 4 ½, 2 ¼, 3 ¾, 7 ¾, 2 ¼, 7 ¾
Final Time: 1:48.63
PENNSYLVANIA DERBY DAY NEW RECORD HANDLE
2021 Pennsylvania Derby Day card recorded a record one-day handle of $13,799,491 from all-sources. A 30 percent increase over the previous one-day high when California Chrome ran in the PA Derby in 2014.