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  /  Backstretch Buzz   /  FROM 94 TO 1 TO THE PA DERBY FAVORITE

FROM 94 TO 1 TO THE PA DERBY FAVORITE

PA DERBYAND COTILLION STAKES NOTES

                                        

No one gave Roadrunner Racing, William Strauss, Boat Racing and Gainesway Stables’ Hot Rod Charlie a second look when he ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. The speedy son of Oxbow was given two chances to win that prize: none and none.

Hot Rod Charlie was dismissed at odds of 94-1 that day and ended up finishing second, three-quarters of a length behind Essential Quality.

It was a sign of things to come.

“That was pretty incredible,” trainer Doug O’Neill said about the Juvenile. “It sounds pretty obvious, but that is the thing that sent us on our way. It really set the tone for what has happened this year.”

With the sudden defection of Medina Spirit from the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, Hot Rod Charlie is the new morning-line favorite at odds of 8-5.

Saturday will be his first race since the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 17. In that race, Hot Rod Charlie was the first horse across the finish line but was disqualified and placed last after Midnight Bourbon clipped heels with him in the stretch.

Before that, Hot Rod Charlie and jockey Flavien Prat ran a courageous race in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont, finishing second behind Essential Quality.

In five starts this year, Hot Rod Charlie has one win — the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby — to go along with a third in the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby.

“He has shown up in every big race we have had him in,” O’Neill said. “He has been very honest and, gosh, I just feel so lucky and blessed to be connected with him, He is just a real cool, blue-collar, solid horse.”

After the Haskell, Hot Rod Charlie went back to O’Neill’s base in California and the trainer decided he would let the horse tell him when he was ready to go again. 

“He needed a couple of weeks after the Haskell,” O’Neill said. “He had to get his bearings about him and get his energy back to where we wanted it to be. As I started breezing him, I just let him go easy, and the last couple of works we have asked him for a little bit of run. He has responded in normal Charlie fashion.”

Hot Rod Charlie arrived at Parx along with the popular Hall of Famer Lava Man, who serves as the colt’s pony, last Saturday.

“He seems to be coming into the Pennsylvania Derby in good shape,” O’Neill said. “I am a big fan of Bensalem and I’m pumped to be going into their signature race with a live chance.”

DIODORO HOPING PA DERBY WILL BE THE BIG ONE WITH KEEPMEINMIND

One of these days, trainer Robertino Diodoro keeps saying, Cyrpus Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farms’ Keepmeinmind is going to win a big race for 3-year-olds. He is hoping that day comes Saturday in the Pennsylvania Derby.

“He is overdue to win one of these,” Diordoro said.

Keepmeinmind, 8-1 on the Derby morning line, has knocked heads with the best horses in the division this year but is still looking for his first win. In his last two starts, the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 $1 million Travers, he finished second and fourth behind Essential Quality, the leader of the 3-year-old division.

All of Keepmeinmind’s seven races this year have come in graded stakes company and three of them were in Grade 1s. Besides the Jim Dandy, he hit the board in the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby when he was third.

Diodoro did not decide to come to the Pennsylvania Derby until last weekend following a workout at Belmont Park. Keepmeinmind zipped four furlongs in 48.57 seconds Saturday, the 16th fastest of 92 works at that distance.

“Parx was off the map until he worked,” Diodoro said. “We were planning on running him someplace (this) weekend.”

Keepmeinmind will be ridden by Joel Rosaro, who was aboard for the Jim Dandy and Travers.  The son of Laoban does his best running late, so it’s imperative that he gets a solid pace to run at. Even with the defection of Medina Spirit, Keepmeinmind should get that with the likes of Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon in the Derby.

“He needs things to go his way,” Diodoro said. “I think, on paper, there is a chance that could happen in Pennsylvania.”

In the Travers, Keepmeinmind did not get the swift early pace to make his run in and was beaten by 5 ½ lengths.

“That was a disappointment,” Diodoro said. “Things didn’t work out our way. But the horse has bounced out of that in good shape. We would not be in this race if he hadn’t. We are excited about Saturday for sure.”

Diodoro said Keepmeinmind will ship to Parx from Belmont on Saturday.

ASMUSSEN QUARTET GET PADDOCK SCHOOLED


 The quartet from Hall of Fame Trainer Steve Asmussen’s string, 

and Silver State, all arrived in fine form on Tuesday following their nearly  250-mile journey from Saratoga Race Course to Parx Racing in anticipation of Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby card.

What was described as a hectic day of shipping other horses to various racetracks went to plan according to Asmussen’s long-time assistant, Scott Blasi. Now settled, the preparations towards race day begin. 

“No issues getting here,” Blasi said. “Everything went well yesterday. We just tack walked today and schooled in the paddock. We’ll gallop tomorrow and get a little feel for the track. We have sprinters and we have distance horses, so we’ll see how it goes, and we’ll be ready to run on Saturday. They’re competitive races. It’s like any time you run in these big races. You’re in a Grade I race, you have to give a Grade I effort.”  

Both Jackie’s Warrior (G2,Gallant Bob) and Clairiere (G1,Cotillion) were schooled together in the paddock following the second race on Wednesday. Clairiere stood still checking out the scene as Jackie’s Warrior gave Blasi and his staff a bit of a handful at times. His antics were nothing new and nothing to worry about according to Blasi.  

“He was totally fine until the horses left the paddock”, Blasi said. “Here, it’s one of those situations where they can see the track and they can see the gate. He’s fine. He always gets a little nervous schooling, but then on race days he’s fine. It is what it is. We’re not too worried about Jack.” 

J Kirk and Judy Robison’s speedster Jackie’s Warrior is in search of his third straight win in Saturday’s Grade 2, Gallant Bob Stakes. The colt by Maclean’s Music has not finished off the board in five starts this year.

His season began with a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The Kentucky-bred then won the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile by a head at Churchill Downs before falling short by a neck to Drain the Clock in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park.  

The colt remained perfect during his summer stay at Saratoga by adding two more graded wins beginning with the Grade 2 Amsterdam and the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial.  

Stonestreet Stables Clairiere is looking to advance to the winners’ circle in the Grade 1 Cotillion after making a closing run for second behind multiple Grade 1 winner Malathaat in the Grade 1, Alabama Stakes on August 21 at Saratoga.  

The filly by Curlin began the year with a victory in the Grade 2, Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds then returned with a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. Clairiere then returned to Churchill Downs where she made her first two starts as a 2-year-old and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, her only off-the-board performance this year.  

Just shy of two months away from the races after the Oaks, Clairiere returned and finished third in the Grade 2, Mother Goose at Belmont and then added another third-place finish in the Grade 1, Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga before her start in the Alabama.  

Midnight Bourbon (G1, Pennsylvania Derby) and Silver State (Parx Dirt Mile) had their chance to get acquainted with the paddock following the sixth race on Wednesday’s card. Both remained in good spirits with Midnight Bourbon being closely chaperoned by stable pony Rowdy as he stood in his stall and exited towards the track. 

Thoroughbreds LLC’s Midnight Bourbon ships in fresh off his strong performance in the Grade 1, Travers on at Saratoga where he finished a neck behind Kentucky Derby winner Essential Quality. 

Midnight Bourbon, a Kentucky-bred by Tiznow, began the year with a victory in the Grade 3, Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds before returning just a few days shy of a month later when he finished third in the Grade 2, Risen Star Stakes. He then was entered in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and battled alongside Hot Rod Charlie before settling for second two lengths behind as Hot Rod Charlie went on to establish a new track record completing the one mile and one sixteenth at Fair Grounds in 1:55.06. 

Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing Silver State makes his second start off a two-month freshening after his third-place finish behind winner Knicks Go and Maxfield in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga. The colt by Hard Spun had been perfect through six starts which included two back-to-back graded stakes victories beginning with the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn and the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.   

JERKENS HOPES TO GET FIRST GRADE 1 WIN WITH WEYBURN IN PA DERBY

Chiefswood Stables Limited’s Weyburn is one of multiple runners who project to be close to the lead in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, and comes off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. The son of Pioneerof the Nile makes his fifth start of the year for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, and attempts his first Grade 1 try on Saturday.  

“I didn’t know how to gauge his race in the Jim Dandy,” Jerkens said. “It was disappointing. I thought he had dead aim at Essential Quality. He looked like he couldn’t get past the leader like he wanted to. As soon as Essential Quality pulled alongside of him, he kind of got timid. It’s not like he fell out of it and got beaten a lot. He was beaten only six lengths. We didn’t think it was a good enough race to wheel him back into the Travers.” 

The Canadian-bred broke his maiden in the slop in his third career start on December 5 at Aqueduct before closing out his 2-year-old year. He then returned to begin his 3-year-old campaign and did so by winning the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct by a nose at odds of 46-1.

“His race in the Gotham, I don’t know where that came from,” Jerkens said. “All he did was break his maiden [coming into the race]. He didn’t run fast. He had a lot of interruptions before we ran him back. I was going to run him in an allowance race on Gotham day or the day before [the Gotham]. Then we decided to run him in the Gotham and he wins.” 

Weyburn was then pointed towards a start in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial and finished fourth after sitting a stalking trip. After a two-month break, he began his summer campaign with a game effort in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth before shipping to Saratoga. 

“He’s a little bit of a strange horse,” said Jerkens. “We’re still trying to figure him out. We like what he is doing. Talent-wise, he’s got it as much as anybody. He’s by Pioneerof the Nile. American Pharoah was pretty straightforward in regards to his record. I’ve been around a lot of Pioneerof the Nile horses and they can be quirky. They’ll keep you guessing.” 

DISTANCE SHOULD BE ALWAYS CARINA LIKING IN THE COTILLION

The last time she ran, Three Chimneys Farm LLC’s Always Carina checked in with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1, $500,000 Test at Saratoga.

Trainer Chad Brown can’t wait until the daughter of Malibu Moon gets to run farther than the seven-furlong Test distance.

That day comes Saturday when she runs in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion at 1 1/16 miles.

“I really want to get her back out in a distance where she will be forwardly placed and in control of her own trip,” Brown said. 

Always Carina, who is 6-1 on the Cotillion morning line, will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Unraced at age two, Always Carina has two wins and a third in her four-race career. She was second in the Grade 2 $250,000 Mother Goose at Belmont on June 25 at 1 1/16 miles.

Then came the Test.

 “She ran ok, it just ended up being too quick of a race for her,” Brown said. “It didn’t work out for her.”

With the defection of Medina Spirit (PA Derby) and Private Mission (Cotillion S.) the revised morning lines are as follow:

G1, PA Derby from the rail out:

Fulsome, (10-1); Keepmeinmind,(5-1); Speaker’s Corner, (8-1); Weyburn, (10-1); I Am Redeemed, (20-1); Bourbonic, (10-1); Hot Rod Charlie, (8-5); Midnight Bourbon, (3-1); Americanrevolution, (15-1).

G1, Cotillion Stakes from the rail out:

Obligatory, (12-1); Allworthy, (12-1); Will’s Secret, (10-1); Maracuja, (5-1); Army Wife,

(3-1); Clairiere, (9-5); Always Carina, (9-2); Leader of the Band, (12-1).Attachments area