O’Neill: Everything Set For Hot Rod Charlie, Except Derby Jockey

Doug O’Neill has a Kentucky Derby itinerary all mapped out for Hot Rod Charlie, save for one detail: no jockey.

That will work itself after Joel Rosario, who rode Hot Rod Charlie to an impressive two-length victory in the Louisiana Derby on March 20, pilots San Vicente and Rebel winner Concert Tour for Bob Baffert in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby.

“If all goes well, our horse will breeze at Santa Anita every Saturday until the final one (on May 1),” said O’Neill, who steadfastly maintains an upbeat countenance. “He’s booked to fly to Kentucky the Sunday before (April 25).

“We have no jockey right now but Rosario is supposed to let us know after the Arkansas Derby.”

O’Neill will be seeking to capture the Run for the Roses for the third time, having won it in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and 2016 with Nyquist, both of whom were based at Santa Anita. Baffert has won the world’s most famous race six times and the Triple Crown twice, in 2015 with American Pharoah and in 2018 with Justify.

Both call Santa Anita home.

“I think it’s the weather,” O’Neill said when asked why horses based at The Great Race Place have had so much success at Churchill Downs. “Being able to train daily is huge, and you have to have a great team, too.

“But the weather here gives us a huge edge.”

Team O’Neill got a welcome taste of live action at Santa Anita last weekend when a limited number of fans were permitted to attend the races for the first time in more than a year, with the pandemic hopefully on the wane.

“It was great,” he said, “just the energy in the air. There’s nothing better than racing and winning when there’s good energy coming from the fans.

“It’s great to have people back, so let’s keep it going.”

The post O’Neill: Everything Set For Hot Rod Charlie, Except Derby Jockey appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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