OTB Race Previews
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Trainer Doug O'Neill's ultimate goal for Hot Rod Charlie is a return to the Breeders' Cup Classic. His immediate one is getting the 4-year-old colt started on the road toward that - which is what he will do in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile Stakes at Monmouth Park on Saturday June 18.
Unraced since finishing second in the World Cup in Dubai on March 26, Hot Rod Charlie will mark his racing return as part of Monmouth Park's inaugural Haskell Stakes preview day.
In addition to the $150,000 Salvator Mile, the Saturday card will feature the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes, the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes and the $150,000 Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds, the track's Haskell Stakes prep race.
Race 14 at Monmouth Park on Saturday, June 18 - Post 6:15 PM
|1||Mind Control||3-1||John Velazquez
|3||Hot Rod Charlie||4-5||Mike Smith
|4||Shirl's Speight||6-1||Emma-Jayne Wilson
|7||Phat Man||5-1||Paco Lopez
"He's doing really, really well," said O'Neill, who will be flying in from California on Thursday in advance of the Salvator Mile. "He's trained with a lot of energy and stamina. It just seems like he is ready to get back to the races.
"We were looking at the calendar around the country and the Salvator Mile just seemed to fit perfectly with him being ready right now."
A son of Oxbow-Indian Miss by Indian Charlie, Hot Road Charlie has banked $5,121,200 from his 15-race career, which includes victories in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, as well as second-place finishes in the Dubai World Cup, the Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Last year he also finished third in the Kentucky Derby and was fourth in Breeders' Cup Classic.
"The big race we're aiming for with him will be the Breeders' Cup Classic (Nov. 5 at Keeneland)," said O'Neill, who has won the Kentucky Derby with I'll Have Another and Nyquist. "We've got that circled and Saturday's race circled as well. Aside from the Classic and the Salvator Mile we haven't really decided on anything else.
"Saturday will tell us a lot. What we do after this depends on his performance and how he comes out of the race."
When Hot Rod Charlie does ship East from California - without his companion pony Lava Man, who is skipping the trip, according to O'Neill - he will be returning to the scene of one of the more memorable moments of his career.
During last year's Haskell Stakes, Hot Rod Charlie fought gamely for a nose victory over Mandaloun only to be disqualified to last for drifting into Midnight Bourbon, causing that horse to clip heels.
"It was a great effort on his part," O'Neill said of last year's Haskell Stakes. "I'm just grateful no horses or humans got hurt. My mindset with that race is I was proud of his effort and grateful no one got hurt."
O'Neill said he is more curious than concerned about the nearly three-month layoff and how it will affect Hot Rod Charlie.
"I'm not worried about it because of the way he has been working," said O'Neill. "In this game you always have concerns going into a race. But he has been breezing like he has been bridging where he was last time out.
"We intentionally gave him this time off coming back from Dubai. We're excited and optimistic. Saturday will tell us a lot about where he is right now."
O'Neill said it was also intentional to shorten up Hot Rod Charlie following the layoff. Owned by Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, Strauss Brothers Racing and Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Hot Rod Charlie has not run as short as a mile since breaking his maiden at Santa Anita on Oct. 2, 2020.
"I'm expecting a real solid performance but I also want something he can build on," said O'Neill. "I want him to run well and come out of it in good shape and give us something to build on to have him at the top of his game come November."
In addition to the Salvator Mile, interest Saturday will be focused on the Pegasus Stakes, which is likely to produce a Haskell Stakes starter or two. The $150,000 Monmouth Stakes for 3 year olds and up at a mile and an eighth on the turf, and the $150,000 Eatontown Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at a mile and sixteenth on the turf, complete the lineup for Haskell Stakes preview day.
The Grade 1 Haskell Stakes on July 23 headlines a card that features four other graded stakes races, including the Grade 1 United Nations.
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Three graded stakes races and the Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds highlight a 14-race card on Saturday for Monmouth Park's inaugural Haskell Stakes Preview Day.
The $150,000 Pegasus Stakes, at a mile and a sixteenth, serves as Monmouth Park's prep race for the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Stakes on July 23.
Headlining the Haskell Stakes Preview Day are the Grade 3, $150,000 Salvator Mile for 3-year-olds and up; the Grade 3, $150,000 Eatontown Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 and up, going a mile and a sixteenth on the turf, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Monmouth Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at a mile and an eighth on the turf.
The four stakes races will go as the final four races on the card as part of an all-stakes Pick 4.
"Clearly this is the best card we have put on this year and one of the best in quite some time across all divisions," said John Heims, Monmouth Park's director of racing and racing secretary. "If Haskell Preview Day turns out as we expect, it should make for a blockbuster Haskell Day."
Hot Rod Charlie, most recently second in the Dubai World Cup on March 26, will make his return in the Salvator Mile for trainer Doug O'Neill. He is one of three Grade 1 winners in the seven-horse Salvator Mile field, a group that includes Mind Control and Shirl's Speight.
Joe Bravo, Monmouth Park's 13-time riding champion, is listed to ride on the card, as are out-of-towners Florent Geroux, Manny Franco, Jose Lezcano, Mike Smith and John Velazquez.
The Pegasus Stakes has drawn a field of nine, including the Brad Cox-trained Home Brew, recent Long Branch Stakes winner Dash Attack, trained by Ken McPeek, and Electability from Chad Brown's barn.
An even dozen starters are listed for the Monmouth Stakes, including the Danny Gargan-trained Tax, a multiple graded stakes winner, and Hidden Stash, who was on the Triple Crown trail last year for trainer Vickie Oliver, finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby.
Eight are entered for the Eatontown Stakes, including last year's race winner Vigilantes Way; Whimsical Muse, who won the Miss Liberty Stakes for trainer Kelly Breen on May 30 at Monmouth Park, and Chad Brown-trainees Lemista and Fluffy Socks.
The July 23 Haskell Day card includes the Grade 1, $600,000 United Nations at a mile and three eighths on the turf for 3 year olds and up; the Grade 3, $400,000 Monmouth Cup for 3 year olds and up at a mile and an eighth; the Grade 3, $400,000 Molly Pitcher for fillies and mares 3 and up at a mile and a sixteenth, and the Grade 3, $200,000 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes for fillies and mares 3 and up at a mile and an eighth on the turf.
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