- Mandaloun won the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park following the disqualification of Hot Rod Charlie.
- Hot Rod Charlie clipped Midnight Bourbon at the eighth pole resulting in the DQ after a postrace steward’s inquiry.
- Hot Rod Charlie was the 6-5 pre-race favorite to win the Haskell, Mandaloun a 2-1 second choice.
Wild outcome in the Grade 1 $1,005,000 TVG.com Haskell Stakes at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park on Saturday as Hot Rod Charlie crossed the finish line before the rest of a small seven horse field only to quickly be disqualified following a steward’s inquiry. That gave the win to the Brad Cox trained Mandaloun–a horse that ironically could end up winning the Kentucky Derby on a disqualification as well.
Belmont winner Hot Rod Charlie (6-5) and Mandaloun (2-1) were the top two favorites in the 1 1/8 mile event for three year olds and they did not disappoint, battling down the stretch with the former crossing the finish line a nose ahead. It was what happened before the stretch run that determined the outcome of the race. From the start, Following Sea (7-2) set a fast pace but faded quickly after six furlongs–not surprising given the fact he hadn’t raced beyond 6.5 furlongs. That allowed Midnight Bourbon (5-1) the opportunity to take the lead near the final turn but he quickly had plenty of company. Mandaloun was closing strong on the inside while Hot Rod Charlie approached on the outside.
Hot Rod Charlie went to the lead with Flavien Prat aboard but in doing so he clipped the heels of Midnight Bourbon who stumbled and sent jockey Paco Lopez tumbling to the dirt track. Fortunately, it appears that everyone involved suffered no worse than minor injuries. Lopez was in the most danger but beyond a dinged up knee and ankle he was fine, displaying a jockey’s toughness with his postrace comment:
“I’m good man. I am fine. I am just going to ice up.”
The stewards announced an inquiry immediately after the race and Hot Rod Charlie’s connections didn’t have to sweat it out long as it only took minutes for the DQ ruling to be issued. His official finishing position was last of seven–the disqualified horse must be placed behind the horse he interfered with and in this case Midnight Bourbon didn’t finish the course. He was quickly reeled in by an outrider and ponied back to trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn. X-rays confirmed no serious injury and Midnight Bourbon escaped with a few cuts and scrapes from his mishap. He is scheduled to travel back to Asmussen’s stable at Saratoga on Monday where his connections will determine his next move. Hot Rod Charlie suffered what trainer Doug O’Neill described as a ‘superficial cut’ on his hind leg but his primary concern was Midnight Bourbon and jockey Lopez:
“He’s walking and jogging sound. We’re grateful that Midnight Bourbon and Paco are okay.”
Hot Rod Charlie ran without blinkers for the first time in six starts and despite the collision O’Neill is expected to continue that route:
“Lugging in, that’s never been a problem, but maybe it’s a question you ask, with the blinkers off. Anytime something like that happens, all kinds of things go through your head. Talking to Flavien (jockey Pratt) after the race, I mentioned, ‘Do you think we put the blinkers back on?’ and he said no. He said – paraphrasing here – he could have prevented things with a gentle left-handed stick.”
Pratt was hesitant to go to the whip due to Saratoga rules that limit their use only to situations ‘where safety could be compromised’. This incident shows the problem with the well intended rule–jockeys usually don’t know if a situation severe enough to warrant using the whip until it happens. Pratt tried to get his mount back on track without the whip–not wanting to run afoul of Monmouth’s rule–but it didn’t work. Already there have been a number of articles in the mainstream and equine media both in the US and internationally questioning the unintended consequences of New Jersey’s whip ban.