Hot Rod Charlie returns to Monmouth Park’s Salvator Mile

Flightline’s June 11 win in the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap showed the sizzle in the older men’s ranks.

A week later, the $150,000, Grade 3 Salvator Mile Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 18 will serve as a reminder of the division’s depth and talent.

Hot Rod Charlie, the first-year winner and winner of $5.1million, will make his first start since finishing second abroad at the Dubai World Cup presented by Emirates Airline when he leads a group of seven older runners during the one-mile test at Jersey Shore.

“We intentionally gave him time off after Dubai and he came back very strong and we have the Breeders’ Cup Classic circled as our ultimate goal. Saturday is the first step to getting there,” said coach Doug O’Neill.

Owned by Boat Racing, Gainesway Stable, Roadrunner Racing and William Strauss, the 4-year-old son of Oxbow has been a regularity gem in a wide range of the sport’s premier races since his juvenile campaign. Winner of the Pennsylvania Derby last year, its list of finalists includes the 2021 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve via disqualification of Medina Spirit, the 2021 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets and the 2020 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Alliance of followed by thoroughbreds. Hot Rod Charlie also crossed the finish line first in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes last summer at Monmouth Park, but was disqualified and placed last of seven for interference in the stretch that pushed a rival to throw his jockey.

Last time out at the $12million Dubai World Cup, Hot Rod Charlie finished 1 ¾ lengths behind fellow American Country Grammer, and although he’s been inactive since that March 26 race, he’s still fifth in the current National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top 10 polls.

While a trip to the Middle East has been exhausting for some horses in the past, O’Neill saw no signs of fatigue during the colt’s recent training.

“The way they set up the park in Dubai is like a working holiday for a lot of horses. It’s so pristine and spacious. They’ve dropped well while they’re there and as long as they come back injury free they look great and are mentally and physically fresh when they come back,” O’Neill said. “It’s been a great experience for us in the past and ‘Hot Rod’ is no different. He came back in top form.”

In choosing a comeback race for the product of mare Indian Charlie Indian Miss, O’Neill was swayed by the timing of the Salvator and the prospect of an easier posting than the July 2 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs.

“His latest work has told us he is ready to return to racing and looking at the calendar the Salvator fits in perfectly. I like the angle of the mile and the fact that it has already been shipped to Monmouth and that he liked it,” O’Neill said. “The Salvator won’t be an easy race, but it will be a little less than the Stephen Foster at this stage and will give him some good preparation we can build on. .”

Although O’Neill hasn’t picked the next stop for his dapper 4-year-old, two appealing choices are either the Aug. 6 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Racetrack or the Sept. 3 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Tue.

“You’ll have to have your running shoes on and have a very talented equine athlete to even think about the Pacific Classic or the Whitney and hopefully the Salvator Mile will tell us that we’re in that mix,” he said. “I’m excited to see how things are developing.”

With regular jockey Flavien Prat committed to riding in New York on Saturday, Mike Smith will be flying in from California for the ride.

The Salvator will also come full circle on 6-year mind control in a career that spanned 25 starts. The son of Stay Thirsty broke his young daughter at Monmouth on August 12, 2018 and since then has won two first year wins while earning $1,471,279 for Red Oak ownership group and Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables.

The field also includes Charles Fipke’s Shirl’s Speight, a 5-year-old Speightstown colt who won the Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes on grass two starts ago. Trained by Roger Attfield, he has only raced on clay once, finishing fifth in an optional six-stadium allocation seeker last year at Gulfstream Park.

DJ Stable’s Helium won the 2021 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for trainer Mark Casse, but the Ironicus gelding has been winless in six starts since, finishing second or third five times.

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