And his trainer, Doug O’Neill, who saddled two winners and two seconds on the seven-race card, served notice to potential rivals eyeing the big race, saying he had “undertrained” Hot Rod Charlie for the dominating score in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 Presented By The Longines Record (G2).
Round 2 was the anticipated highlight of the fourth week of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, which now has reached its midpoint heading for Super Saturday March 5 and World Cup night itself March 26.
Although his final margin of victory wouldn’t indicate so, Hot Rod Charlie had to work for a while before drawing off in the final furlong to win the 1,900-meter (about 1 3/16 miles) Round 2 by 5 1/4 lengths .
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With William Buick taking the reins for regular rider Flavien Prat, Hot Rod Charlie broke well, got the rail position, and raced head-to-head with Al Nefud and jockey Ryan Moore around the first turn, down the backstretch, and around into the straight.
Asked by Buick, Hot Rod Charlie then shook loose and rolled home comfortably. Al Nefud held second with American transplant Everfast third. O’Neill also saddled go on at Nyquist colt, who finished 10th under Frankie Dettori and remains winless after five starts.
“I just wanted to keep it as simple as possible,” Buick said. “He was the best horse in the race.”
“What a ride,” O’Neill said of Buick’s effort. “He’s a wonderful horse.”
“I might have overtrained him going into his last race (second in the San Antonio Stakes, G2, at Santa Anita Park Dec. 26), and now, with the travel and all, we undertrained him a little bit,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill and part-owner Bill Strauss both said the oxbow colt’s huge ownership group plotted after Hot Rod Charlie finished fourth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar to bypass the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park and the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) in Riyadh in favor of the $12 million Dubai race.
“Now the plan is to keep him here and it’s well spaced between here and the World Cup,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill, who has eight horses at the Carnival, is off to a rousing start. In addition to the big win, he saddled Get Back Goldie to win the first Thoroughbred race on Feb. 4 card, the Oud Metha Stakes Presented by Longines Master Collection. Tea Goldencents colt was last seen finishing ninth in the Nov. 28 Cecil B. DeMille (G3T) at Del Mar. He scored his only previous victory at Santa Anita Oct. 23 when he found no takers for the $50,000 claiming tag.
The connections of Hot Rod Charlie in the trophy presentation after his victory in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2
A hat trick seemed well within reach as the O’Neill-trained Khantaro d’Oro held the lead at mid-stretch in the night’s penultimate race only to yield in the final 100 meters, finishing second to Withering.
Creative Flair wins the Balanchine at Meydan
Creative Flair, a Dubai filly, was having her first start for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby since finishing fourth in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park last Sept. 18. Before that, she was third in the Saratoga Oaks Invitational (G3). The Balanchine was her first win at the group level.
“She has good form in the book from the UK and she ran some good races in America as well,” said winning rider Buick. “It’s nice to get a group win next to her name.”
The Jumeirah Classic at 1,600 meters (about one mile) on the turf likely was a proving ground for some of Godolphin’s promising 3-year-old candidates for a spring and summer campaign. If so, Sovereign Prince , a Dubawi gelding, threw a spanner in the works for the team, stalking, pouncing, and winning by 1 1/4 lengths. The favourite, New Science at Lope de Vega colt also racing for Godolphin, settled for third behind long shot Mr Professor .
As a gelding, Sovereign Prince is not eligible to contest the UK Classics so placing him will involve other options—a non-unpleasant problem for Appleby who seems to have a Newmarket yard full of talented 3-year-old colts.
Appleby was not on hand for the fourth evening of the Carnival and Sovereign Prince’s rider, James Doyle, while professing himself “delighted” with the performance, added, “I’m not sure what Charlie has planned for him.”
Hypothetical takes the Firebreak Stakes at Meydan
Hypothetical a 5-year-old son of Lope de Vega, showed the way in the Firebreak Stakes Presented by Longines Conquest (G3) at one mile on the dirt and drew off in the end to win by 3 1/2 lengths over yet another O’Neill runner, Strong constitution.
Hypothetical, who finished fourth in the 2021 Dubai World Cup, inexplicably finished 12th in his comeback race at Meydan Jan. 14—by far his worst-ever performance.
“He ran a tough race today,” said winning rider Mickael Barzalona. “The plan was to give him confidence after his last race.”
The future for Hypothetical now could involve another tilt at the World Cup or the Godolphin Mile (G2) on the same program.