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Hot Rod Charlie up there with the best

The odd equine stands out with an aura surrounding them, some sort of charisma that attracts us like butterflies to flowers



Fairytale: Arrogate staged one of the most remarkable comebacks to win the Dubai World Cup in 2017. — Dubai Racing Club
Fairytale: Arrogate staged one of the most remarkable comebacks to win the Dubai World Cup in 2017. — Dubai Racing Club

By Jacquie Doyle, Special to Khaleej Times

Published: Mon 14 Mar 2022, 12:01 AM

Last updated: Mon 14 Mar 2022, 12:02 AM

I have been in a fortunate position over the last 10 years to watch many horses training in the early mornings at Meydan and I have always had a knack for spotting that occasional ‘special’ horse that stands out from the rest of their adversaries.

Like humans, each individual has their way of moving, some are long-striding and flowing, some short or choppy, one swaggers, the next may lumber along, an enthusiastic horse could be followed by a bored-looking or reluctant one. And just like humans, the odd equine stands out with an aura surrounding them, some sort of charisma that attracts us like butterflies to flowers.

Superstar: California Chrome (second from right) had that aura about him and he went on to triumph on the big night at Meydan in 2016. — AFP
Superstar: California Chrome (second from right) had that aura about him and he went on to triumph on the big night at Meydan in 2016. — AFP

California Chrome (2016) possessed just such an aura. He owned the Meydan track as soon as he stepped foot on it each day — such was his presence. When he set off to gallop, it was clear for me to see how comfortable he felt on this particular surface and, as the weeks passed, Chrome began to relax more on his journey to and from his morning workplace and his stature physically grew before my eyes. I could not visualise any horse being able to better him in the World Cup and happily pressed my opinion upon anybody I spoke with. The result could have been very different had his saddle slipped back a few centimetres more but, thankfully, it didn’t and my hero was an outstanding and comfortable winner as I had predicted.

By sheer coincidence, along strutted Arrogate the very next year, 2017, a very attractive grey flying machine and another whose action while galloping showed an ease of movement not seen amongst his contemporaries. Arrogate too held his audience in awe of him as he stood and posed after his workout as though expecting applause to erupt. I saw his trainer Bob Baffert bow down before him one morning in a “we are not worthy of you” fashion. Once again, I touted my confidence in my opinion and, thankfully I was correct despite his inauspicious start from the gates. He overcame trouble and won with a consummate amount of ease. A true champion.

My pick this year, out of the horses I have seen so far has to be Hot Rod Charlie, yet another USA-trained runner. Whilst he is not a big or robust type of animal, he to me looks neat, well balanced, athletic, and extremely light on his feet as the best racehorses so often are.

Antonio Fresu has been partnering him in his more serious workouts and did so on Friday morning. His words after were quite revealing after as he said: “He feels like he’s flying on top of the ground, not even touching it. Every furlong is perfect, he’s so easy, all on the bridle and that’s on his own.

“I’ve never ridden him in company but I”m sure he’s gonna be a beast with somebody next to him. He is so smooth and when he switches leads, you don’t feel anything. He’s a professional.”

Fresu humbly went on to say that “They [Doug O’Neill] have given me some rides and I’m happy to help out in the mornings, you never know what could happen.”

Dream on guys, but they’re right, you never know what might happen.

The author is a former Derby-winning trainer and the mother of world renowned jockeys, James 
and Sophie Doyle