Hot Rod Charlie put down a serious marker for the Dubai World Cup with a dominant display in the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan.
Third in the Kentucky Derby and runner-up in the Belmont Stakes, William Buick bounced Doug O’Neill’s charge out of the stalls to give him a positive ride.
From a long way out the race only concerned two runners, as Ryan Moore on Al Nefud made sure Hot Rod Charlie did not have things all his own way and matched him stride for stride until the home turn.
But from then on the American challenger gained the upper hand and gradually pulled further and further clear to win by five and a quarter lengths.
With compatriot Life Is Good not certain to travel for the World Cup, Hot Rod Charlie is already second-favourite at a general 3-1.
“I’m so proud of him, it’s been a great journey and I’m hoping there’s more chapters to come,” said O’Neill, who stated beforehand his star was around 70 per cent fit.
“It was a prep race, but I’d have been disappointed if he hadn’t won. We didn’t train him super-hard knowing we had plenty of time to get ready for the World Cup, but to run the way he did – it’s a special night for sure.
“He’s a horse who is loaded with class. It was a strong field and William rode him with a ton of confidence. Next stop is the end of March.”
Buick said: “Doug and the team said he was versatile, and he’s a real joy to ride. He’s very good but very intelligent, too, and listens to the messages you give him.
“He’s had a race, he ran hard but I was very happy with what he did.
“I was confident he’d pick up when I asked as he ran a good race in the Belmont over a mile and a half, sticking on all the way to the line.”
O’Neill and Buick had earlier struck with Get Back Goldie who came from an unpromising position to win the Oud Metha Stakes.
Outpaced as Rudy Trigger set sharp early fractionals, he fairly flew home to beat Little Afrodite by half a length.
There was a turn up in the Jumeirah Classic in which Buick was expected to win on Charlie Appleby’s New Science but he could only finish third behind stablemate Sovereign Prince. Alice Haynes’ Mr Professor split the Appleby duo
James Doyle was on the winner and said: “He won the trial for this race which was a bit of a bunched finish so this was definitely a step forward from that.
“If you took New Science out of the race it was a similar field and I felt he’d be a better horse today than he was in the trial.”
Hypothetical, fourth in the World Cup last year, bounced back from a disappointing return three weeks ago to run out a clear-cut winner of the Firebreak Stakes.
All his best form is over a mile but Mickael Barzalona did not rule out going back up to 10 furlongs on World Cup night once more.
“Now he’s older, he settles better which will give him a better chance of getting the longer trip,” said Barzalona.
The Appleby-trained Creative Force overcame 139-day absence to take Group Two Balanchine and give Buick a treble.
Creative Flair was smartly away from her wide draw and briefly led until Stunning Beauty took over. Buick kept his mount close to the pace before setting sail for home early in the straight.
Cape Verdi scorer Pevensey Bay stayed on from the rear to claim second place without getting in a blow to the three-quarters of a length winner. Dubai Love was a neck away in third.
“I took my time to get over. She’s a forward-going filly and she was racing a little bit fresh and generously. It was her first run for a while, but she’s all heart,” said Buick. “She really deserved that. She’s got some good form in Europe and ran some good races in America towards the end of last year.
“I don’t know if going over to the States will be the plan again this year. I don’t think she’ll get any further than 10 furlongs. She does stay, but has a bit of kick as well. Obviously, it was her first run for a while today and nine furlongs was ideal for her.”