Louisiana Derby finalists featured
In the third installment of our four-part Kentucky Derby Preview here at VegasInsider.com, we’ll focus on the first three finishers from the Louisiana Derby – Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon, O Besos – as well as G2 Blue Grass runner-up Highly Motivated and G1 Arkansas Derby winner Super Stock.
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Hot Rod Charlie
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Kentucky Derby Contender - Hot Rod Charlie
Trainer Doug O’Neill, who won the Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and again in 2016 with Nyquist, took his time with Hot Rod Charlie, allowing him to find his way to the first Saturday in May.
Hot Rod Charlie lost his first three starts, a dirt sprint, then sprint and route tries on the turf, before returning to the main track to win an early fall mile race at Santa Anita while racing on the pace throughout for the first time in his career.
Off the maiden tally, Hot Rod Charlie was ambitiously sent to the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. Sent off as the longest price on the board at over 94-1, he sat several lengths off a fast pace before making a mid on the far turn and taking the lead in deep stretch before getting run down by eventual juvenile Eclipse champ and Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality.
Hot Rod Charlie his sophomore season nearly three months later in the G3 Robert Lewis at Santa Anita. After stumbling at the start, he found his way into contention in the stretch and got himself involved in a bit of a shoving match but appeared to hang on the money when taking the worst of a three-horse photo finish.
In the Louisiana Derby, Joel Rosario put Hot Rod Charlie on the front end and made every pole a winning one, to win by two lengths going a mile and three sixteenths in a solid 1:55. Flavien Prat, winner of the 2019 Derby via disqualification aboard Country House will ride. He figures to be close but not on the lead like last out.
Hot Rod Charlie did all his training at Santa Anita since the last win six weeks out from the Derby and arrived at Churchill on Sunday April 25. One day earlier, he worked six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 approximately 30 minutes prior to the first race of the day at the Great Race Place.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Midnight Bourbon
Midnight Bourbon, who along with Super Stock, are looking to give his Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen his first Derby score, arguably did the best work throughout the winter at the Fair Grounds.
As a two-year-old, Midnight Bourbon raced in the shadow of his flashier stablemate Jackie’s Warrior. He finished second in his debut then won by daylight at Ellis Park going a mile out of their quirky chute then finished a solid second in the G3 Iroquois on Kentucky Derby day after racing in the teeth of the pace throughout. He wrapped his season with a distant third place finish in the G1 Champagne at Belmont.
This year, Midnight Bourbon made his two turn debut a winning one when he set a sensible pace to lead them all the way at the Fair Grounds over Proxy and Mandaloun. He’d finish third to Mandaloun and Proxy in the G2 Risen Star when he was taken just off the pace.
Last out in the Louisiana Derby, Midnight Bourbon essentially followed the winner around the track, trying him to no avail at the eighth pole before finishing two lengths behind while holding on to the place money.
One of the first contenders on the ground at Churchill, Midnight Bourbon has trained nicely, wrapping things up with a on Monday April 26 with a five furlong move in 1:02 2/5 beneath the twin spires. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who won the 2005 Derby with Giacomo and 2018 Triple Crown aboard Justify, will ride for the first time.
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Kentucky Derby Contender - O Besos
O Besos made it close for place in the Louisiana Derby and will return to Churchill Downs having closed nicely after a bad start in his debut over a sloppy track for trainer Greg Foley.
O Besos won his subsequent two starts, an off the turf sprint to take his maiden in his final start of last year and an entry level allowance contest sprinting as well.
Two starts back in the Risen Star under rider Marcelino Pedroza for the first time, he raced wide throughout and finished seven-plus lengths behind the winner while never seriously threatening.
Drawn widest of all in his last, O Besos lost ground on the first turn of the Louisiana Derby before working out a much better trip for the second half of the event, closing nicely along the inside on the far turn and through the lane to just miss finishing second.
One of the more talked about longshots this year, O Besos drew into the event after a slew of defections last week and worked a half-mile in :48 at Churchill on Thursday 4/22.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Super Stock
Super Stock gives Asmussen another chance at the roses after punching his ticket with an upset score in the G1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn most recently.
Last year, Super Stock won just once from six starts but hit the board in four of the other five with his only off the board finish coming in his debut over the turf in a sprint at Keeneland in early July before racing exclusively on dirt thereafter.
A second-place finish at Lone Star Park was followed a week later by an easy tally in a restricted stakes race. He then finished third in the Iroquois, Breeders’ Futurity and Street Sense, his final start of the season.
Super Stock kicked off his sophomore season over four months later in the G2 Rebel at Oaklawn. In a race dominated on the front end by Concert Tour, Super Stock managed to finish fourth despite finding some traffic trouble.
Last out in the Arkansas Derby, Super Stock was closer to a more contested pace set by Caddo River and Concert Tour, never more than a couple of lengths off the lead under Ricardo Santana, Jr. while saving ground from his rail draw. Super Stock tipped out off the far turn and rolled by the embattled leaders to win by over two lengths.
With just three weeks from his last score, Super Stock hasn’t had to do as much as far as training goes and finished up his major work with a five furlong move in 1:10 1/5 on Saturday 4/24 at Churchill.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Highly Motivated
Highly Motivated will be making his third start of the season for trainer Chad Brown and regular rider Javier Castellano, his only pilot in a five-race career.
After just missing in the slop at Saratoga in his debut, Highly Motivated defeated fellow Derby hopeful Known Agenda in late September at Belmont. In his final juvenile start, he kicked off Breeders’ Cup weekend at Keeneland with a dazzling win in the Nyquist, stopping the clock for six-and-a-half furlongs in 1:14 4/5.
Brown had Highly Motivated at his winter base of Payson Park but decided to ship him north for his first start in four months for the G3 Gotham at Aqueduct. After a bobble at the start, Highly Motivated didn’t pull the greatest trip in the mile affair but found his way into contention in the stretch before falling less than a couple of lengths short with a third-place finish as the 4-5 favorite.
Highly Motivated, in his first start around two turns, found himself on the lead in the G2 Blue Grass at Keeneland. In a rare occurrence, a paceless race on paper played out the same way on the track. Usually in the stalking position, he found himself as the hunted as Essential Quality was never a length away and eventually wore him down in the final few strides.
Like in the Nyquist, this will be the third start of Highly Motivated’s form cycle. He finished up his serious training with a five furlong work in 1:00 4/5 at Churchill on Saturday 4/24.