Can a Hot Rod have courage? Pumping pistons, positive traction rear end, turbocharged with racing slicks can equal lots of courage if it is a Hot Rod with the horsepower we are referencing.

Hot Rod Charlie has been one of the fan favorites in the Thoroughbred game since he nearly upset the apple cart with a ferocious runner-up effort in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. Going off at odds of 94-1, he was only ¾ of a length away from one of the biggest miracles in sporting history. Running into the hearts of many, this hard-driving son of Oxbow has continued to thrill his followers through twelve consecutive starts in Stakes company.

During his tour around the world, the Doug O’Neill-trained funny car has been right there in every one of those races. Near misses included a very close third in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, one of the most courageous second-place finishes you will ever see in the 2021 Belmont Stakes, and an unfortunate disqualification from first place in the 2021 Haskell. Wins in the 2021 Louisiana Derby, 2021 Pennsylvania Derby, and the 2022 Al Maktoum Challenge in Dubai were examples of his pony potential. Having been in the top three in every race except a fourth-place finish in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic, he has displayed the grit and courage of a real racehorse.

Looking to return to Keeneland for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup, Hot Rod Charlie has eyes on the Lukas Classic as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Run on October 1 at the historic Churchill Downs, this mile and an eighth race served as the springboard for Knicks Go last year as he defeated Chuck in last year’s Cup.

Currently training at Keeneland, the location and timing of the Lukas Classic made the most sense for this Hot Rod.

“He has been working at Keeneland for a while now”, says O’Neill. “He looks to be totally on target for the Lukas. He’s a fun horse that always shows up full of run.”

Worth a cool $500,000 this year the Lukas will attract some other talented runners including Kentucky Derby champion Rich Strike and grade 1 winner Happy Saver. Tough company is nothing new to the hard-running Hot Rod. Likely to be fine-tuned under jockey Tyler Gafflione, Charlie should be right there at the end once again.

“We are excited to get Tyler back on him”, says O’Neill. “Charlie seems to be a bigger and better version of himself.”

The Lukas Classic will be the headliner on an 11-race card that also features the Ack-Ack which is a Breeders’ Cup win and you’re in race for the Dirt Mile. First post is slated for 12:45 eastern on October 1.

3/20/2021 – Hot Rod Charlie with Joel Rosario aboard wins the 108th running of the #1,000,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodgeds, Jr.