Grade 1 star Hot Rod Charlie takes his game on the road to Meydan for Friday’s $350,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2), his prep for the Mar. 26 Dubai World Cup (G1). The Doug O’Neill trainee tops a 12-strong cast for the about 1 3/16-mile feature on the Carnival card.
Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) – Race 5 (11:20 a.m. ET)
Hot Rod Charlie shipped in a couple of weeks ago to give him time to acclimate, and the $2.5 million-earner has been pleasing connections in his training over the Meydan track.
“His last piece of work was amazing when he went out alone, as we did not want to set him alight,” said assistant trainer Leandro Mora, who is handling preparations for O’Neill’s Dubai squad.
“The long stretch at Meydan should really suit him and (jockey) William Buick was very happy when he sat on him.”
Buick figures to make the most of Hot Rod Charlie’s tactical speed from post 3.
“He looks great and I was very happy with him,” his new pilot said. “It was the first time I had ridden him. He feels like a class horse and seemed to enjoy the Meydan dirt surface. I am looking forward to riding him in a race.”
Hot Rod Charlie set a Fair Grounds track record in his only start going 1 3/16 miles, in last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2), before fine placings in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont (G1). Demoted from his first-past-the-post effort in the Haskell (G1) for interference, the Oxbow colt scored his official Grade 1 laurel in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). Fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in his first try versus elders, Hot Rod Charlie comes off a photo-finish loss in the Dec. 26 San Antonio (G2). Stablemate Go On also exits the San Antonio, where he was a troubled fourth in his stakes debut, and picks up Frankie Dettori here.
The locally-based principals include three for Bhupat Seemar – up-and-comers Kafoo, a promising third in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) over a metric mile, and Al Nefud, the mount of Ryan Moore in his first serious class test, along with veteran Roman Rosso. Doug Watson is double-handed with Everfast, the 2019 Preakness (G1) runner-up, who made a stylish Dubai bow on Dec. 2, and Thegreatcollection, second in Round 2 a year ago and most recently fourth in Round 1. For the Top bounced back to his best in the Entisar S. last out. Other contenders include Thunder Snow’s half-brother Eastern World, New Trails, Quip, and Fire Group.
Rest of card
O’Neill has three others entered on the Friday card. Get Back Goldie is in the about six-furlong conditions event (Race 2, 9:35 a.m. ET), fellow sophomore Khantaro d’Oro tries to break his maiden in the Al Bastakiya Trial (Race 6, 11:55 a.m. ET), and Strongconstitution takes on the Firebreak (G3) (Race 4, 10:55 a.m. ET).
The one to beat in the Firebreak is Seemar’s Tuz. Like Hot Rod Charlie a son of Oxbow, the Kentucky-bred broke through with his first stakes win in the Dec. 16 Dubai Creek Mile at this track and trip. Hypothetical, second in last year’s Firebreak and Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), was also fourth in the Dubai World Cup (G1). The Salem bin Ghadayer charge is entitled to move forward off his comeback no-show in Round 1. Prince Eiji comes off a terrific second to Kafoo in a conditions race, while Island Rule chased home Mubakker in a similar event. Divisional mainstay Kimbear as well as more recent American expats Dessman and Wrecking Crew round out the cast.
Anchoring the seven-race program is the $180,000 Balanchine (G2) (12:30 p.m. ET) for fillies and mares on turf, and Creative Flair spearheads a six-strong Godolphin team. The Charlie Appleby pupil, last seen finishing fourth in the Jockey Club Oaks at Belmont Park, will meet several from the Jan. 14 Cape Verdi (G2) including upsetter Pevensey Bay, third Wedding Dance, and such also-rans as Mnasek and Soft Whisper.