Hot Rod Charlie wins Louisiana Derby by 2 lengths

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hot Rod Charlie led wire to wire to win the $1 million Louisiana Derby by two lengths over Midnight Bourbon on Saturday and earn 100 points toward qualification for the Kentucky Derby.

It was the first graded stakes victory after some narrow misses for the California-based horse, who’d finished second in last years TVG Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and third in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.

“How could it possibly not feel as good as anybody could ever feel. We’ve got a horse in the Kentucky Derby,” said Greg Helm of Roadrunner Racing, who is part owner of Hot Rod Charlie. “We’ve been struggling with him to be first every time and he comes in right when we need him.”

The major prep race for Triple Crown hopefuls was run in front of a mostly empty clubhouse and grandstand at Fair Ground Race Course because of crowd restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trained by Leandro Mora and with jockey Joel Rosario aboard, Hot Rod Charlie went off at 7-1 and ran 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.06. He paid $7.80, $4.40 and $3.60.

Rosario said the race demonstrated Hot Rod Charlie’s prospects for competing at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs on May 1 after he didn’t tire when challenged by Midnght Bourbon down the stretch.

“It was very impressive,” Rosario said. “It looked like the horse came on the outside, he was able to fight back and just not let the horse go by.”

Rosario also noted that Hot Rod Charlie doesn’t need to get out in front early to stay in the race.

“He can do anything,” Rosario said. “Last time we ran him, he came from a little bit off the pace. I think he can run anywhere.”

The Steve Asmussen-trained Midnight Bourbon, with Joe Talamo aboard, earned 40 points and paid $7.20 and $4.40.

Long-shot O Besos, who went off at 28-1, finished third and paid $7.80 and earned 20 points toward Kentucky Derby qualification.

Morning line favorite Mandaloun, who went off at 6-5, was third going into the final turn but faded to finish sixth.

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