Three Takeaways from the 2021 Louisiana Derby

Mar 23, 2021 by James Scully/

The first of eight major Kentucky Derby qualifiers, Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) awarded points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four.

Here are three Louisiana Derby takeaways.

Hot Rod Charlie revs it up in final Kentucky Derby prep

After narrowly losing his first two stakes attempts, Hot Rod Charlie broke through with a two-length victory.

Joel Rosario seized the initiative after breaking in a tangle, guiding Hot Rod Charlie to a short lead entering the first turn. Midnight Bourbon tracked closely in second and loomed a serious threat to the outside entering the stretch, but he could not get past.

Hot Rod Charlie gamely turned back the challenge to win going away at the wire, delivering a career-best performance while easily stretching out to the 1 3/16-mile distance.

Beaten less than a length when recording a fast-closing second at 94-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), the Oxbow colt was exiting a neck third in the Jan. 30 Robert B. Lewis S. (G3). He left the starting gate as the 29-10 second choice at Fair Grounds.

Hot Rod Charlie is campaigned by Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, and William Strauss, and Leandro Mora took over the training duties from Doug O’Neill, who will be back at the helm for the Kentucky Derby.

Multi-dimensional skills on display for California-based colt

The front-running tactics caught many by surprise given that Hot Rod Charlie had not set the pace in his first six starts. In fact, he was easily labeled a midpack stalker based upon run style in his first two stakes efforts.

The versatility he showed Saturday bodes well for a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

“He can do anything,” Rosario said. “He can run from anywhere.” 

Hot Rod Charlie flattered the California-based contingent of Kentucky Derby contenders. After finishing behind Medina Spirit in the Robert Lewis, connections elected to ship Hot Rod Charlie to New Orleans instead of coming back for Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 3.

Early Kentucky Derby favorite Life Is Good has been sidelined, but there is still plenty of depth out west.

Rosario may have a decision to make in the coming weeks. The Kentucky Derby-winning jockey also serves as the regular rider for Concert Tour, who is headed to the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 10 for Bob Baffert.

Midnight Bourbon, O Besos run well; Mandaloun comes up empty

Lecomte S. (G3) winner Midnight Bourbon had every chance before giving way slightly at the end, saving second by a head, and his tactical foot could prove advantageous in the Kentucky Derby. The Steve Asmussen pupil doesn’t belong in the top tier of contenders, but Midnight Bourbon remains a viable candidate to grab at least a minor award at Churchill Downs. His pedigree is built toward longer distances, and the Tiznow colt has never finished out of the money from seven starts (2-2-3).

O Besos recorded an improved performance in his second stakes appearance, rallying to miss second by a head, and the Greg Foley trainee appears well-situated for a Kentucky berth with 25 points.

Proxy did not move forward with the addition of blinkers. A rough start did him no favors, but the Tapit colt lacked a finishing kick in the final furlongs, checking in fourth.

Mandaloun did not fire as the 13-10 favorite, weakening to sixth in the stretch drive. He just didn’t have it. The Brad Cox-trained colt experienced a wide trip, but ground loss was no impediment to his easy win in the Feb. 13 Risen Star S. (G2).

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