Hot Rod Charlie Makes Flying Start To Dubai Campaign - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Hot Rod Charlie Makes Flying Start To Dubai Campaign

Hot Rod Charlie and William Buick win the G2 Maktoum Challenge Round 2 in Dubai

In bringing their star colt to Dubai in mid-January, to prep over the track for the $12million Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup, the team behind Hot Rod Charlie was following a tried and tested route.

Curlin, successful in 2008, and California Chrome in 2016, both arrived from the US and took in local preps before winning the big one. Now, Doug O'Neill's Hot Rod Charlie has taken the first step along the same road, winning Group 2 Maktoum Challenge Round 2 [Presented by Longines Record], over 1 3/16 miles, 100 meters short of the (1 1/4-mile) World Cup trip.

He didn't have it easy, however. Ridden by William Buick, deputizing for Flavien Prat, the son of Oxbow broke well from his post in three and made the lead, but was pushed all the way by Al Nefud, ridden by Ryan Moore. Turning for home, there was a brief moment when that rival threatened, but when asked for his effort, Hot Rod Charlie responded in spades. He eventually crossed the line, ears pricked, 5 1/4 lengths clear of Al Nefud, who made a fine Group race debut for trainer Bhupat Seemar.

“Doug and his team said he's a very versatile horse,” Buick said of Hot Rod Charlie. “He can run a mile, a mile and a quarter. He's got enough pace for a mile and he can be on the pace. He's a real joy to ride and he's a very intelligent horse. He really responds to the message you give him.

“From where we were drawn in three I thought we would be on the pace and if something wanted to go crazy then we'd let them go. But it was smooth – he ran hard and I was very happy with what he did. He's adapted very well to coming over here and obviously, the team had him in great shape.

“I was confident that he would respond for me but obviously when Al Nefud put the pressure on we turned it on. In these good dirt races you never get them handed to you that's why you need a good horse like this.” 

With part-owners Patrick O'Neill and Bill Strauss in Dubai to cheer on Hot Rod Charlie, trainer O'Neill was relieved to get the first part of the job done.

“It's been such a great journey; let's hope there are more chapters to come,” said the dual Kentucky Derby-winning handler. “We took a little different approach with him; we didn't train him too hard going into this. However, we knew we had plenty of time to get him ready for the Dubai World Cup.

“He's a horse who is just loaded with class. It was a strong field tonight, but William rode him with a ton of class and a ton of confidence.

“He wasn't really expecting to go to the front but he said he [Hot Rod Charlie] 'just pulled me there and he was comfortable doing it. The pace wasn't overly hot and he kicked on when he needed to.

“Next stop; the end of March, for sure.”

Hot Rod Charlie's win was the second of the night for O'Neill, who allayed some nerves thanks to the success of Get Back Goldie in the six-furlong Oud Metha Stakes [Presented by Longines Master Collection], on dirt.

Also ridden by Buick, the homebred son of Goldencents came with a late run from the back of the field in the 3-year-old contest, denying Little Afrodite, who looked booked for first place under Ray Dawson.

“All credit to William Buick; what a great ride he gave Get Back Goldie,” said O'Neill. “[Assistant] Leandro Mora and the rest of the crew worked hard to get the horse to settle in.”

Despite this win being over the sprint trip, O'Neill has lofty plans for the colt, for whom this was the first win on dirt.

“We're dreaming big time here. As long as the horse stays injury-free, the UAE Derby is definitely a dream target for him”, he added. “It's a little bit ambitious but he's built that way.”

It was a night to remember for Buick, who also landed the closing Group 2 Balanchine Stakes [Presented by Longines Evidenza] on Creative Flair for his regular boss, Charlie Appleby.

A Listed winner last season, the 4-year-old was making her UAE debut and was always close to the pace from her wide draw in nine. She then showed plenty of tenacity to hold off the late-closing Pevensey Bay, looking to follow up her Cape Verdi win and Dubai Love.

It was a fourth Balanchine in a row for Appleby, who was absent due to being in the UK. It was left to Buick to sum up the race, and he praised his filly's bravery.

“That was her first run for a while, but she's all heart and she deserved that,” he said.

“She's got some good form in Europe and she ran some good races in America towards the end of last year. I don't know whether going to the States again will be the plan.”

One race that didn't go Buick's way was the Jumeirah Classic, over a mile on turf. He rode the Appleby-trained New Science, sent off the hot favourite due to some strong UK form. However, it was stablemate Sovereign Prince who took the win, his second in Dubai, making the most of race fitness for a smooth length and a quarter win under James Doyle. Mr Professor, trained in the UK by Alice Haynes, was second, with New Science a non-threatening third.

“He won the trial for this race which he did nicely,” said Doyle. “It was a bit of a bunched finish, but he hadn't run for some time so he definitely stepped forward from that. Going into this race we felt he would be a better horse today than he was in the trial.”

Hot Rod Charlie might not have been the only World Cup aspirant to win on the card, as Hypothetical put forward his case with a dominant win in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes [Presented by Longines Conquest.]

Fourth in last year's World Cup, Hypothetical was virtually pulled up on his reappearance last month but was back to his best here. Ridden by Mickael Barzalona, winning this race for a record third time, the Salem Bin Ghadayer-trained 5-year-old put up a fine front-running display and saw off the closing Strongconstitution, by 3 1/4 lengths.

“We didn't know which horse to follow so we decided to make it (the running) on our own,” said Barzalona. “I'm glad to see him going the right way again. I think he's a lot more mature now, so he could go back over ten [furlongs] but he's very professional over a mile.

“For sure, the Dubai World Cup will be a very hard race but we've first got to see how he runs on Super Saturday.”

On a brilliant night for team O'Neill, they collected another silver medal in the 1 3/16-mile Al Bastakiya Trial [Presented by Longines SaintImier], on dirt. Their Kantaro D'Oro looked like he'd made a winning move under Antonio Fresu but was passed close home by Withering, who was given a patient ride by Adrie De Vries and collected a first win at the seventh attempt.

De Vries passed the credit for the win to trainer Fawzi Nass, saying: “He wasn't the fastest away, but he jumped a little better than last week. He traveled nicely into the race. I was hands full into the turn and I was just looking for the gaps.

“All credit to Fawzi, because it was my choice to run him in a maiden and he said he would stay, he had a lot of faith in the horse. Good job.”

Unlucky there, Fresu had earlier picked up a win of his own when Rajeh ran out the convincing winner of the opening G1 Maktoum Challenge Round 1 [Presented by Longines Dolce Vita] for Purebred Arabians.

Making just his second local start after racing in Qatar, the Musabbeh Al Mheiri trainee traveled on the pace and easily dispatched the chasing Dergham Athbah.

The winner was greeted by owner Basil Masoud Sakeh Al Kasbi, who said: “When I bought this horse the plan was to bring him to Dubai with the ambition being to go for the Group 1 races. One of the goals has been achieved today and we're looking forward to more wins.

“We have a lot of hope in this horse and the Dubai Kahayla Classic is the dream.”

The Carnival resumes next Friday, February 11th, when the G2 Singspiel Stakes and G3 UAE 2000 Guineas are the features.

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