Patrick O’Neill Diary: Bye-Bye Haskell, Hello Pennsylvania Derby for Hot Rod Charlie
Patrick O’Neill, nephew of two-time Kentucky Derby-winning coach Doug O’Neill and blood agent Dennis O’Neill, had a different interest than most college kids when he was an undergraduate and member of the Brown University football team. He insisted on adding TVG to the Brotherhood House cable TV package; he was the one who watched the horse races at every opportunity, including in class and in the study of the film before practice.
O’Neill’s contagious enthusiasm for sports and “family matters” eventually sparked the interest of his close friends who graduated with him in 2015. With their professional careers underway, they were looking for a job that would keep them connected and add to the good times they had already spent together.
O’Neill, now vice president of sales and strategic partnerships at Founder Sport Group, joined former Brown teammates Eric Armagost, Dan Giovacchini, Reiley Higgins and Alex Quoyeser to form Boat Racing, LLC. The partnership is named after a beer-blowing game they played as brothers in the Theta Delta Chi fraternity.
Boat Racing took a minor but still significant financial stake in Hot Rod Charlie, the third horse they have ever owned, joining Greg Helm and William Strauss. Hot Rod Charlie won the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby and cemented his status as one of the nation’s top 3-year-olds with a third place finish in the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve and a solid second after landing scorching fractions in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. He later crossed the finish line first in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes, but was subsequently disqualified and placed last for a traffic incident in the middle.
O’Neill has been journaling with Tom Pedulla for America’s Best Racing since Hot Rod Charlie burst onto the scene placing second in the $ 2million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at 94-1 . Here’s their payout ahead of Saturday’s $ 1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa.
Every day is a good day when you’re lucky enough to be a part of Charlie, but… we probably should have known that Haskell Day wasn’t going to be a “big” day with the way July 17th began.
Considering that the Boat Racing crew and many of our close friends in Southern California didn’t want to miss opening day at Del Mar – which we thought was a good decision and at the time seemed like a choice wise considering the unparalleled fun we had that day. (and overnight) – another Boat Racing member, Dan, and I booked a 6am flight the next morning direct from San Diego to Newark, NJ On the obvious assumption that commercial airlines such as United are always on time and never have any issues, we believed we would have plenty of time to Uber to Monmouth Park and see Charlie compete in the $ 1million Haskell.
We were minutes from landing in Newark – the plateau table was up, the seat reversed from its declining position, the saliva wiped off the unfortunate man next to me, and the plane was declining in altitude – when the pilot announced that a storm had struck unexpectedly across the area. Not serious. I fly a ton for work and just thought they would find a window in the storm, we’ll land and race again with plenty of time to spare. Forty-five minutes later, I walked around the airport and now me and Dan are starting to sweat with worry. After another 15 minutes, what we thought was our worst nightmare of the day came true when the pilot called out: fuel. We have been cleared to land in Cleveland and will provide more information on future trips to Newark from the ground. Please prepare for landing. In our heads, it was a lot of fancy pilot talk for “You’re doomed.” “
We land in Cleveland and Dan and I are in shock. However, when you get into enough competitive sports and we get a bit longer in the tooth, you quickly realize that life is about making lemonade from lemons at every opportunity. It was the occasion: the United Club at Cleveland International Airport became the official venue for Haskell’s party. We can’t tell you how many amazing people we met in this living room who listened to us to watch Charlie strutting around on NBC (alongside Britney Eurton, Eddie Olczyk and Laffit Pincay III for the work they did in a hard live situation). Mission accomplished. Lemonade created … with a hint of soda and a bigger splash of tequila.
With Alex, Eric and Reiley returning to Del Mar FaceTiming live, Charlie has an incredible break and, as always, Flavien Prat has placed him in the perfect spot depending on the pace of the race. Coming home, it looked like the whole Cleveland airport was on Charlie’s back. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something strange happen to Midnight Bourbon, but I wasn’t quite sure, so I changed my mind when I saw that Charlie was winning over Mandaloun with every stride. (Side note: this isn’t fair, but it always seems like when I have a deep interest in a horse in any race – whether it’s the owner or the game, you have tunnel vision and n aren’t really receptive to what’s going on in the race). Charlie puts his head first on the wire and the United Lounge goes crazy! I remember a little football knocking Dan over then hugging all the bartenders at the United Lounge close at hand.
After 60 seconds of euphoria, I spot the NBC crew on TV talking about something, but they continue to be stifled by the celebration that followed. After a few “shush’s” and a visual of the NBC replay, we all realize that Charlie had cut his heels with Midnight Bourbon and that the stewards would have no choice but to disqualify him. The celebration ended as quickly as it had started and it was nothing but stunned silence. Come to think of it, I feel horrible for the people in the living room … can you imagine how embarrassing it was for them?
There is a widely accepted concept in sport that you are given one night to reflect on a loss and learn from it, and then the next morning you refocus your mindset on the next game. After a weird dinner in Cleveland and waking up at 4am the next morning to head back to San Diego, it was time to put on the big boy’s pants, step back a bit from the past 24 hours, and think about the next game.
“Uncle Doug” informed us late in the evening and early in the morning that Charlie was in good health apart from a few small strokes, and we continually saw positive tweets that Midnight Bourbon and Paco Lopez were also unharmed. After this news, the rest was whipped cream, cherries and a squirt of sprinkles. As much as we don’t believe, the ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Breeders’ Cup, the money, the reputation of winning the famous stallion race like the Haskell Invitational are all good, but what was not the case. which made us jump for joy in a random airport lounge in Cleveland or Facetime in excitement on a random Saturday in August with our best friends. It was our love for Charlie, Charlie going all out in another top sporting event and enjoying with our loved ones. Once again, we had won before the doors even opened. The only area where we get a little ‘salty’ every now and then is when we think of Charlie. … He has raced so amazing in so many top level races in a row and still doesn’t have a grade 1 to his name to mean he is among the best in his class. Horse racing doesn’t owe anyone anything, but we hope Charlie’s time will come soon.
After the events of Haskell, the team regrouped, led by Roadrunner Racing and Bill Strauss, and agreed within minutes that the plan should be for Charlie to tell us what is best for him to go from there. before. It was clear that as tough as the dude was, he wanted a little more time than usual to recover, given the Haskell tragedy and his long campaign since the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in January. After a few weeks of letting him enjoy being a horse again, you could see in his demeanor that only after a few weeks he wanted to come back to this trail. At this point, the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby became an option. With each work, it became more and more a reality and here we are on the Thursday before the big event.
We didn’t decide to run because we thought the Pennsylvania Derby would be an easy place. This will certainly not be the case, even with the withdrawal of Medina Spirit. There are some extremely talented and well-behaved late-developing 3-year-olds who have every right to make a splash this fall and in the 2022 calendar at 4 years old. Charlie will have his hands full in post seven as well, especially with Midnight Bourbon’s very talented and high cruising speed just outside him. While we expect to be placed forward, Charlie has shown he can run big, whether he’s in the lead or sitting in a stalking position. He has a great relationship with Flavien and Flavien is as good as he gets. We’ll let Flavien do what he does and sail the best trip at Flavien’s discretion.
Charlie is doing wonderfully and has maintained or even gained weight since the Haskell. The O’Neill team have done an amazing job running their campaign all year round and again we have no excuses. Being around Charlie at the barn in the back of Parx this week is a quick reminder of how lucky we are to be a part of this animal … and whether he knows it or not he has given us more reps to master the thought that bad times are only momentary and good times should be fully embraced as they don’t happen very often.
Goodbye Haskell, hello Pennsylvania Derby!