Doug O’Neill’s star to use Al Maktoum Challenge R2 as a springboard to $12million Dubai World Cup
It’s not often we get to see the most popular horse in America up close, but that is the experience Meydan Racegoers will have on Friday when Hot Rod Charlie makes his highly-anticipated UAE debut.
Voted the winner of the Vox Populi Award for 2021 by US racing fans, the Doug O’Neill-trained four-year-old is the headline act in G2 Maktoum Challenge R2 [Presented by The Longines Record], the feature on Friday’s seven-race card.
Third in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Belmont, and the winner of the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, Hot Rod Charlie warmed up for his Dubai travels with a close second, beaten a nose, in the G2 San Vincente Stakes at Santa Anita, California, on December 26th.
He’ll have a strong supporting party to cheer him on, with Patrick O’Neill of part-owners Boat Racing in town, as well as another co-owner, Bill Strauss.
“We sat down after the Breeders’ Cup meeting in November and made a plan for the horse”, said Strauss. “We decided to target Dubai and then the best way of getting to the Dubai World Cup, which was to bring him here and give him a race over the track.”
Hot Rod Charlie faces stiff opposition in the feature, with emphatic local debut winner Everfast in there for Doug Watson.
“We weren’t sure where to go with him [after his local debut win in December]”, said Watson. “We were thinking this race or the Firebreak, but then [owner]Frankie O’Connor came into town and that helped make up our minds.