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Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon Lead PA Derby

Medina Spirit was pulled out of the race by trainer Bob Baffert.

Hot Rod Charlie trains at Parx Racing

Hot Rod Charlie trains at Parx Racing

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx Racing Sept. 25 promises to be a highly interesting test for 3-year-olds, though the race lost some of its star power with an announced withdrawl of Medina Spirit Sept. 21.

BloodHorse: Medina Spirit Out of PA Derby, Pointed to Awesome Again

That leaves the spotlight on two others: Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon. Hot Rod Charlie now figures as the favorite, followed by Midnight Bourbon. Both are alumni from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs this May.

Hot Rod Charlie, owned by Boat Racing, Gainesway Stable, Roadrunner Racing, and William Strauss, rebounded from the Kentucky Derby third with a brilliant effort in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1). The son of Oxbow  set the swift early pace of :46.49 in the 1 1/2-mile Test of the Champion, which would have explained an off-the-board finish. Instead, he battled until the final yards and finished second, 1 1/4 lengths behind 2-year-old champion Essential Quality.

Despite those swift fractions, it was 11 1/4 lengths back to Rombauer in third.

Next, he engaged in a classic duel with Mandaloun in the final furlong of the Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park and crossed the wire first by a nose, but was disqualified and placed last for drifting in during the stretch run under Prat, who like all jockeys in the race could use his riding crop only for safety reasons, and caused Midnight Bourbon to stumble and unseat his rider.

"We're very happy with his last breeze and he's shipped safely and soundly to Parx, so we're all smiles," O'Neill said of the grade 2 winner. "We're very optimistic."

It's been an eventful summer for Midnight Bourbon. After his sharp second in the Preakness and tumultuous trip in the Haskell, the son of Tiznow turned in a strong effort for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1), grabbing the early lead and battling to the end in a narrow loss to 3-year-old male division leader Essential Quality.

Essential Quality,  with jockey Luis Saez duels with Midnight Bourbon, right to win the 152nd Runhappy Travers Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course Saturday Aug 28, 2021 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.<br>
Photo: Skip Dickstein/Tim Lanahan
Midnight Bourbon (right) finishes a narrow runner-up to Essential Quality in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

"He seems to be getting better as he gets older and the year goes on," Fiske said about the grade 3 winner, "which is what we hoped for and expected. He's proven to us he's gotten better as he's gone longer. He can clearly get the distance and he's clearly fast, so we'll see how that works out Saturday."

The Travers was yet another in a string of performances that have underscored the strength and consistency of the Kentucky Derby field and the 3-year-old crop in general.

"It has been a really good class of 3-year-olds this year and I am grateful and blessed that 'Charlie' fits in with the top tier," O'Neill said. "It's been a solid and very honest class. They have all kept showing up for every dance which is hard to have young horses do that. They have matured and continued to have their performances rise. It's been fun to watch and fun to be part of."

The remaining six sophomores will be hoping to benefit from some rapid fractions.

Heading that group is the late-running Keepmeinmind (post 2), a son of Laoban  owned by Cyprus Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith, and Spendthrift Farm. Trained by Robertino Diodoro, the grade 1-placed Keepmeinmind was seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness before finishing second to Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saturday's 1 1/8-mile distance. In the Travers, he ran evenly and finished fourth to bring his earnings up to $739,987 despite having just one win in 11 starts.

Chiefswood Stables' Weyburn (post 4) sat out the Triple Crown but showed his class by finishing second by a neck to Mandaloun in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth after leading midway through the race. A son of Pioneerof the Nile trained by Jimmy Jerkens, he has not raced since finishing fourth in the July 31 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course.

The field also includes Juddmonte's Fulsome (post 1), winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) at Parx, Saratoga allowance winner Speaker's Corner (post 3), the Pennsylvania-bred stakes winner I Am Redeemed (post 5), Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino (G2) winner Bourbonic (post 6), and the New York-bred Albany Stakes victor Americanrevolution (post 10).

"There are some up-and-comers in there," O'Neill said. 

Entries: Pennsylvania Derby (G1)

Parx Racing, Saturday, September 25, 2021, Race 12

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $1,000,000
  • 3 yo
  • 5:49 PM (local)
11Fulsome (KY)Florent Geroux124Brad H. Cox12/1
22Keepmeinmind (KY)Joel Rosario119Robertino Diodoro8/1
33Speaker's Corner (KY)Jose L. Ortiz119William I. Mott12/1
44Weyburn (ON)Paco Lopez124James A. Jerkens12/1
55I Am Redeemed (PA)Abner Adorno119Penny Pearce20/1
66Bourbonic (KY)Kendrick Carmouche124Todd A. Pletcher12/1
77Hot Rod Charlie (KY)Flavien Prat124Doug F. O'Neill5/2
88Midnight Bourbon (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRicardo Santana, Jr.124Steven M. Asmussen5/1
99Medina Spirit (FL)John R. Velazquez126Bob Baffert2/1
1010Americanrevolution (NY)Luis Saez122Todd A. Pletcher15/1