‘HOT ROD’ REVVED UP FOR THE KENTUCKY DERBY
MANDELLA HAS A STRONG HAND IN ANGEL FLIGHT
ROCK YOUR WORLD T-SHIRTS ON SALE SATURDAY
SADLER’S FLIGHTLINE EARNS 105 BEYER IN MAIDEN WIN
O’NEILL HAPPY EN ROUTE TO KENTUCKY DERBY
Doug O’Neill is nothing if not confident about Hot Rod Charlie’s chances in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Of course, that’s not headline-worthy information for the trainer who turns 53 on May 24. He already has two victories in the Run for the Roses on his growing resume, in 2012 with 15-1 outsider I’ll Have Another and in 2016 with 2-1 favorite Nyquist.
It’s also not breaking news that O’Neill generally and refreshingly sees the glass as half full, and such is the case with Hot Rod Charlie, who worked six furlongs in 1:13.68 at Santa Anita Saturday prior to the first race.
It was Hot Rod Charlie’s final major breeze for the 147th Kentucky Derby, and O’Neill was still well-satisfied after he had a chance to sleep on it.
“I’m very happy,” O’Neill said by phone at 7 o’clock Sunday morning as he waited to board a plane that would lead him to the Blue Grass State. “He went very nice, very steady. It was exactly what we had hoped for, and Flavvy was very happy with it as well. That means a lot.”
“Flavvy” would be Flavien Prat, Santa Anita’s runaway leading rider with a 93-54 bulge over runner-up Juan Hernandez. Prat was aboard Hot Rod Charlie for Saturday’s workout and rides him in the first jewel of the Triple Crown.
“They’re all individual horses, but we’re optimistic,” O’Neill said when asked if there was a difference approaching Saturday’s classic from his previous two experiences.
“But this year the Derby does seem like it’s really wide open. It will be interesting to see where we draw (post positions will be announced on Tuesday) and how he settles in. He ships today and we’re eager to see him at Churchill Downs and how he does.
“But like Nyquist and I’ll Have Another, we’re excited about the opportunity. He’s a good shipper (having finished second by less than a length at odds of 94-1 to undefeated Eclipse Award champion Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland last year, and winning the Grade II Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on March 20).”
Hot Rod Charlie, a Kentucky-bred son of Oxbow owned by Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, LLC and William Strauss, will have elite company on his journey.
” His mentor, Lava Man, is going with him,” O’Neill said, referring to the fabled gelding who celebrated his 20th birthday this year and is affectionately called “The Coach” by stable staff.
“He’s funny,” O’Neill said of Lava Man, now a stable pony after a storybook career as a racehorse, once claimed for $50,000, winner of 17 of 47 races, earner of $5,268,706 and elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015.
“With his shirt on and a saddle on, he looks great. But like me, when you see him with his shirt off, you can tell he’s 20.”
Not to worry. As Mark Twain once said, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been,” and for Team O’Neill, there have been plenty.
MANDELLA HOLDS STRONG HAND IN ANGELS FLIGHT
Missy P. was no secret in her debut race on March 12, going off at odds of 2-5. Owned and bred by Spendthrift Farm, LLC, the daughter of Into Mischief didn’t disappoint, winning a 5 ½-furlong dash on a good track by 9 ½ lengths with six rivals in her wake.
Astute is already a stakes winner, having captured the Desi Arnaz at Del Mar by 7 ½ lengths last Nov. 14. Both fillies appear to give Richard Mandella a daunting hand in Saturday’s $75,000 Angel Flight Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.
“She always showed promise and continues to do well,” the Hall of Fame trainer said of Missy P. “We expect her to run well Saturday, but she’s just had one race, so who knows?
“Astute is a proven commodity. She had a big work Friday, 1:11 and change (1:11.40), so she’s ready to go and she’s a very good filly, too.”
A daughter of 2004 Eclipse Award champion sprinter Speightstown owned by LNJ Foxwoods and bred by WinStar Farms, LLC, Astute makes her first start in nearly five months, having finished a distant fourth in the Grade I Starlet at a mile and one-sixteenth last Dec. 5.
Santa Anita’s runaway jockey leader Flavien Prat has ridden both fillies in their last races, but rides Hot Rod Charlie in the Kentucky Derby Saturday, so Mandella has engaged Juan Hernandez to pilot Astute and Tyler Baze to handle Missy P. in the Angel Flight.
ROCK YOUR WORLD T-SHIRTS BENEFIT CARMA
Rock Your World T-shirts will be on sale for $20 at Santa Anita Saturday, May 1, in celebration of the colt’s victory in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 3.
They will be available outside Champions Gift Shop near the East Paddock Gardens while supplies last.
Net profits will benefit CARMA (California Retirement Management Account), a charitable organization dedicated to providing funding for the rehabilitation, retraining and/or retirement of California-raced Thoroughbred horses.
FINISH LINES: As Time Goes By, 9 ¼-length winner of yesterday’s Grade II Santa Margarita Stakes, gave Bob Baffert a meet-leading 13th stakes victory dating back to Dec. 26. “She’s by my all-time favorite horse, American Pharoah, and I’ve taken my time with her,” Baffert said . . . Trainer John Sadler enjoyed a huge day on Saturday, as his $1 million first-time starter Flightline, a 3-year-old colt by Tapit, aired by some 13 ¼ lengths while getting six furlongs in 1:08.75–good for a lofty 105 Beyer Speed figure. Sadler also had bookend victories at Oaklawn Park Saturday, capturing the first race by 6 ¼ lengths with 1-2 favorite Purda Vita and the 11th and last race by a neck with 8-5 second choice Livingmybestlife . . . There were 190 recorded workouts Sunday, including a four-furlong training track move in 49.20 for trainer Phil D’Amato‘s multiple graded stakes winner Charmaine’s Mia, a candidate for the Grade I Gamely Stakes Memorial Day, Monday, May 31 . . . Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday through Thursday. Live racing resumes 1 p.m. Friday, April 30.
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