The ever-expanding travelogue of Hot Rod Charlie adds another destination stamp on Friday: Dubai. That’s where the popular colt makes his 4-year-old debut in the Group 2 Maktoum Challenge at Meydan Racecourse.

Hot Rod Charlie-Dubai 1
Hot Rod Charlie will use Saturday’s Group 2 Maktoum Challenge as a tune-up for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March. (Image: Ernie Belmonte)

This serves as the designated warm-up, get-acclimated-to-the-track race before the March 26 Group 1 Dubai World Cup. It’s the major reason why Hot Rod Charlie shipped over to the Middle East last month — two-plus months before the Dubai World Cup.

Bill Strauss, who owns Hot Rod Charlie with Boat Racing and Greg Helm’s Roadrunner Racing, is in Dubai with Boat Racing’s Patrick O’Neill. O’Neill is the nephew of trainer Doug O’Neill. Strauss, the co-founder of, said Friday’s race is another building block toward the Dubai World Cup.

“We sat down after the Breeders’ Cup meeting in November and made a plan for the horse,” Strauss told the Dubai Racing Club. “We decided to target Dubai and then the best way of getting to the Dubai World Cup, which was to bring him here and give him a race over the track.”

Hot Rod Charlie’s eighth track in as many races

The Maktoum Challenge Round 2 is a 1,900-meter — about 1.18 miles — dirt race. Previously won by the likes of Frosted (2016), the 2016 Met Mile and Whitney winner, the Maktoum Challenge is the second of three trial races for the Dubai World Cup. It’s the featured race on Friday’s Meydan card.

It’s also Hot Rod Charlie’s ninth different track. His last seven races have come at seven different tracks, including Santa Anita, Del Mar, Parx, Monmouth Park, Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Fair Grounds. Meydan will be his eighth different track in as many races.

Last out, the son of 2013 Preakness champion Oxbow finished a gritty second by a nose to Express Train in the Dec. 26 Grade 2 San Antonio at Santa Anita. That came nearly two months after Hot Rod Charlie finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar.

Third in the 2021 Kentucky Derby and second to Essential Quality in a memorable Belmont Stakes, Hot Rod Charlie is 3-3-3 in 13 starts for O’Neill. He’s already banked $2,511,520 in those 13 starts.