US Star Steps Out On Friday

Meydan is off at 16h00 on Friday

It’s not often we get to see the most popular horse in America up close, but that is the experience Meydan Racegoers will have on Friday when Hot Rod Charlie makes his highly-anticipated UAE debut.

Voted the winner of the Vox Populi Award for 2021 by US racing fans, the Doug O’Neill-trained four-year-old is the headline act in Gr2 Maktoum Challenge R2 [Presented by The Longines Record], the feature on Friday’s seven-race card.

Third in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Belmont, and the winner of the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, Hot Rod Charlie warmed up for his Dubai travels with a close second, beaten a nose, in the Gr2 San Vincente Stakes at Santa Anita, California, on December 26th.

He’ll have a strong supporting party to cheer him on, with Patrick O’Neill of part-owners Boat Racing in town, as well as another co-owner, Bill Strauss.

“We sat down after the Breeders’ Cup meeting in November and made a plan for the horse”, said Strauss. “We decided to target Dubai and then the best way of getting to the Dubai World Cup, which was to bring him here and give him a race over the track.”

Hot Rod Charlie faces stiff opposition in the feature, with emphatic local debut winner Everfast in there for Doug Watson.

“We weren’t sure where to go with him [after his local debut win in December]”, said Watson. “We were thinking this race or the Firebreak, but then [owner] Frankie O’Connor came into town and that helped make up our minds.

“He was second in the Preakness over this trip, so I don’t think it will be a problem.”

The other Gr2 on the card is the Balanchine [Presented by Longines Evidenza] for fillies and mares on turf, over 1800metres. It sees the French-trained Pevensey Bay bidding to follow up her victory in the Cape Verdi (Gr2) over 200metres shorter last time out. Waiting for her in the race is Charlie Appleby’s Creative Flair, who was last seen finishing fourth in the Jockey Club Oaks in New York in September.

“She has always had the Balanchine as her long-term target”, said the handler, who has won the last two editions of this race with Summer Romance and Magic Lily. “Her preparation has gone well.”

The third Thoroughbred race on the card is the Gr3 Firebreak Stakes [Presented by Longines Conquest] over 1600metres on dirt, which was won in 2021 by subsequent G2 Godolphin Mile winner Secret Ambition. It has a field of eight, with Bhupat Seemar’s Tuz aiming to make it two from two this season, having won the Listed Dubai Creek Mile in December. Watson sends out Prince Eiji, an eye-catching short-head second to Kafoo on his local debut and first on dirt.

“We were thrilled and disappointed with his first run here”, said Watson of the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Obaid Al Maktoum-owned six-year-old. “He got a little leg-weary with it being his first try on dirt, but it still took a good one to beat him and it’s always been the plan to run here.”

Godolphin are having another excellent Carnival and they are loaded in the turf races, in particular. Appleby’s Listed winner New Science takes on Jumeirah Derby Trial winner Island Falcon in the Listed Jumeirah Classic [Presented by Longines Elegant] and the handler also runs Sovereign Prince, a winner here three weeks ago when he beat the re-opposing Sed Maarib.

Appleby has had the Carnival as the target for several months for New Science and said: “His form from the UK is rock solid but he was quick to be earmarked for a Dubai campaign and his preparation has gone well. [After this race] he’ll head back to the UK for one of the Guineas Trials.”

The three-year-olds also line up on dirt in the Al Bastakiya Trial [Presented by Longines St Imier] over 1900metres, in which the Watson-trained Violent Justice looks of interest following his emphatic Jebel Ali maiden win. Earlier on, a select field of six has been declared for the Oud Metha Stakes [Presented by Longines Master Collection] over 1200metres on dirt. Leading the charge there is Rudy Trigger, a winner of three of his five starts in Argentina for trainer Maria Munoz.

The evening’s action begins at 6pm with the Gr1 Maktoum Challenge R1 [Presented by Longines Dolce Vita] for Purebred Arabians, over 1900metres. It welcomes back last year’s winner, RB Frynchh Dude, as well as another Gr1 winner, Brraq.

  • The first race at Meydan on Friday is off  at 16h00

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