Dubai Preview: Hot Rod Charlie up to Al Maktoum Challenge
It would be a major shock if #11 Hot Rod Charlie doesn’t win the 1900-meter (about 1 3/16-mile) Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) at Meydan Feb. 4.
Trainer Doug O’Neill has found a nice prep race for him here, held under weight-for-age conditions, and though there are 12 runners, none have ratings within 14 pounds of the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) winner.
He won’t have his normal jockey Flavien Prat, but he shouldn’t lose anything as O’Neill has acquired the services of top British rider William Buick, Godolphin’s main jockey.
O’Neill will be double-handed in the race as he is also lining up #10 Go On. The son of Nyquist finished fourth in the San Antonio, his first crack at stakes company. He has a lot of improving to do to get near his stablemate but he can’t be ignored for multiples.
The most likely local threats are two promising four-year-olds, #8 Al Nefud and #12 Kafoo. Al Nefud has won both his dirt starts in Meydan impressively, albeit in much lower class, and he has the services of Ryan Moore.
Kafoo was a staying-on third in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) over one mile Jan. 14; as a son of Curlin, he should enjoy the extra 1 1/2 furlongs. He just beat home #7 Thegreatcollection, who was second in this race last year and should again be competitive.
#6 Roman Rosso makes his seasonal debut but he put in solid races last year in Round 1 and Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge. #3 For The Top is also a chance after winning the listed Entisar S. over 1 1/4 miles Dec. 2.
Perhaps the most intriguing runner is the 2019 Preakness S. (G1) runner-up #2 Everfast. He didn’t kick on much after that race and had his last race in the United States on New Year’s Eve in 2020. Transferring to Doug Watson in Dubai, he ran very well to win a mile at Meydan Dec. 2, 2021, and could be competitive back at the Preakness distance.
Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2), 1 3/16 miles, Meydan, Feb. 4.
With Hot Rod Charlie on top
- $30 win: #11 Hot Rod Charlie
- $1 trifecta: 11 with 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12 with 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12
Without Hot Rod Charlie on top
- $1 trifecta: 2, 8 with 11 with 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12.
BONUS PLAY – SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa has alternate first legs to its Triple Crown for three-year-olds, and this Saturday features the second of those, the Gauteng Guineas (G2) over 1600 meters (about one mile) at Turffontein.
Leading trainer Mike de Kock is normally hard to beat in any South African feature, and he has a strong hand here with #1 Safe Passage, winner of the Dingaans S. (G2) Nov. 30, and recent Sea Cottage S. (G3) winner #2 Aragosta. The latter is coming back from 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) two weeks back and Safe Passage, who hasn’t raced since the Dingaans, may be a little fresher.
#3 Red Saxon, #4 William Robertson, and the unbeaten #11 Supreme Warrior are others to consider.
Gauteng Guineas (G2), Turffontein
- $10 win/$30 show: #1 Safe Passage