Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon seek first-year glory in the Penn Derby


The Pennsylvania Derby, your traditional last big 3-year race of the season, returns after a year of absence linked to COVID. And the Penn Derby returns, asking the pressing question regarding a few decorated sophomores:

Hot Rod Charlie and coach Doug O’Neill have a great opportunity to win their first Rank 1 in Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby in Parx. (Image: Sarah Andrew)

Will Hot Rod Charlie or Midnight Bourbon finally win that elusive Grade 1 victory?

If one of them breaks their first-year schnid, Saturday in Parx is probably the time and place they break it. There is no Essential Quality, no Mandaloun, no Spirit of Medina to torment either of the two 3 year olds, who are clearly the first here in more ways than one.

This year’s $ 1 million Penn Derby features an eight-to-10 field with scratches from Medina Spirit and Keepmeinmind. Medina Spirit, the 2/1 initial favorite, was scratched after coach Bob Baffert disliked his outside 9 post. Coach Robertino Diodoro scratched Keepmeinmind on Friday after suffering an abscess in his front left foot.

“It’s just bad timing,” Diodoro told Parx. “He trained like a monster (Thursday) and we needed the pony to get him off the track; he felt so good. It’s really disappointing, but the main thing is that the horse is doing well. Horrible timing.

Parx spends his day in the sun on Saturday

The other eight will cover 1 1/8 miles in the Featured Race on Parx Flagship Race Day. The suburban Philadelphia track offers eight stakes – five ranked – and $ 3.4 million in combined purses. The Penn Derby is one of two Grade 1s, with the Cotillion for 3 year old fillies being the other.

These eight follow the hoofprints of recent Penn Derby winners, such as McKinzie (2018), West Coast (2017), Frosted (2015), Bayern (2014) and Will Take Charge (2012). Bayern set the track record, beating the Kentucky Derby and Preakness California Chrome winner in a race that put the Penn Derby on the rider map. For good measure, Bayern beat him again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, giving Baffert the first of his three straight Classic titles. Will Take Charge and West Coast both won the Eclipse Awards as the 3 year old male champion.

That’s where Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon come in. Hot Rod Charlie inherited the 5/2 morning line’s favorite status when Baffert released Medina Spirit 2/1. You will remember his last outing, that infamous Haskell Stakes win that wasn’t, after Hot Rod Charlie was shot for interfering with Midnight Bourbon in the stretch.

Hot Rod Charlie As Consistent As You Can Get

This erased what would have been his first victory since winning the sophomore Louisiana Derby in March. Hot Rod Charlie’s demotion to seventh marked the first time he has missed the table in eight races, spanning 10 months. And yet, despite more than $ 1.5 million in winnings, a narrow failure in the Belmont Stakes and a stellar ranked record (1-2-2 in six starts), Hot Rod Charlie has no Rank. 1.

“He’s shown up in every major race we’ve had him in,” said coach Doug O’Neill. “He was very honest and, my God, I feel so lucky and blessed to be connected with him. He’s just a real strong, cool horse.

Expect this “blue collar horse” to establish early speed with his Haskell nemesis: Midnight Bourbon (5/1). Both are trailblazers who like to be in the lead or near the head.

The clock strikes 12 on Midnight Bourbon in the stretch

Midnight Bourbon held the lead as Rombauer brought him back to the 16th pole of the Preakness. He led the Travers through the first mile of the 1¼-mile test, before Essential Quality caught up with him with three sixteenths to go and slapped him on the neck. And he led the opening quarter-mile of the Louisiana Derby before Hot Rod Charlie overtook him and O Besos nearly made it on the wire.

Detect a trend here? Midnight Bourbon hasn’t won since Grade 3 Lecomte in January. That was six races ago. There is no quarrel with Midnight Bourbon’s grinder mentality; he never takes a race and you’ll see him leading the way here from the start.

That said, by setting aside his sixth place finish in the Kentucky Derby and his retirement due to interference from Hot Rod Charlie at Monmouth Park, Midnight Bourbon placed himself in the box of the good guys, but not the big colts.

This is his best chance to escape this box.

Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby / Parx

Morning line (Jockey / Coach)

  1. Fulsome, 12/1 (Florent Geroux / Brad Cox)
  2. Keep in mind, SCR
  3. Speakers’ Corner, 12/1 (Jose Ortiz / Bill Mott)
  4. Weyburn, 12/1 (Paco Lopez / Jimmy Jerkens)
  5. I’m redeemed, 1/20 (Abner Adorno / Penny Pearce)
  6. Bourbonic, 12/1 (Kendrick Carmouche / Todd Pletcher)
  7. Hot Rod Charlie, 5/2 (Flavien Prat / Doug O’Neill)
  8. Midnight Bourbon, 5/1 (Ricardo Santana Jr./Steve Asmussen)
  9. Medina Spirit, SCR
  10. American Revolution, 1/15 (Luis Saez / Todd Pletcher)

There are two more to note that could keep both Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon Grade 1 less. The first is Speaker’s Corner (12/1), which defines “lightly run”. The Street Sense colt is 2-0-1 in his three career races – the lightest colt in the field. But after breaking his first try on his second try at Belmont Park last October, Speaker’s Corner tore an August allowance from Saratoga by 5 lengths.

This Hall of Fame coach Bill Mott lets go of him in a solid Grade 1 that speaks loudly from Speaker’s Corner. This Speaker’s Corner has a fast pace to go says a lot about its chances here – even when jumping into this deep pool.

Don’t be surprised by a Penn Derby upheaval

Second to watch is another Grade 1 recruit: Fulsome (12/1). The colt Into Mischief is ranked 5 for 7 and 3 for his last 4 (3-0-1). Two of those victories came in grade 3: the Matt Winn at Churchill Downs in May and the Street Sense here in Parx last month. Fulsome was the 3/5 favorite of this last race, the preparation for the Penn Derby.

What makes Fulsome such a low-key threat here is his closing style. In a race where Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon, Americianrevolution, and Weyburn think they’re flying out of the gate, he can smash and grab at least one bite here – if not more – if things go right.

The choice : Speakers’ corner. This pace is perfect for a colt who waltzed up to 107 Equibase Speed ​​Figure on his last start. He was well-liked from the start and his late kick and sheer speed find the right scenario to flourish. Plus, you get all of this at a price you won’t get with the two favorites. With that said, don’t let Hot Rod Charlie out of your tickets. He has more tactical speed than Midnight Bourbon – a lesson we’ve seen time and time again this year.


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