Saturday's race had a quality eight-horse field headed by Mandaloun who already qualified for the first race in the Triple Crown by virtue of a win in the Risen Star stakes - a victory that earned him 50 qualifying points.
Louisiana Derby Results
Mandaloun was the favorite in the 1 3/16-mile contest at 7/5 odds, but it was the horse that was looking for its first stakes victory that came out on top. Hot Rod Charlie, with odds of 3/1, broke from the fifth post position, took the lead after a ¼ mile and slowly pulled away to win by two lengths.
After a win and a third-place finish in the prior prep races at The Fair Grounds, Midnight Bourbon at 7/1 odds was the runner-up, picking up 40 points to send the Steve Asmussen-trained colt to Churchill Downs with a total of 66 points.
The Hall of Fame trainer was in danger of getting shut out of the Kentucky Derby, but jockey Joseph Talamo made sure he will have at least one entry.
O Besos, a 30/1 longshot, surged down the stretch to finish third, potentially denying fourth place Proxy at 3/1 a spot in the upcoming Run for the Roses.
Even with O Besos' 20 points for third and Proxy's 10 points for fourth, both horses will likely come up short of qualifying for the Kentucky Derby. Proxy currently sits in 11th with 34 points, and O Besos is right behind him in the standings with 25 points.
After looking like he would contend, getting into third place at the half-mile pole, Mandaloun faded to finish sixth behind Starrininmydreams, another 30/1 shot.
With a spot in the Kentucky Derby locked down, it's hard to say whether jockey Florent Geroux and trainer Brad Cox opted to save energy with Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon setting the pace.
Prize money and betting payouts
Hot Rod Charlie won $610,000 for his first stakes win and paid $7.80, $4.40 and $3.60. For a second-place finish, Midnight Bourbon won $200,000 and paid $7.20 and $4.40.
O Besos was paid $100,000 for third and paid $7.80 for the show bet. With the fourth-place finish, Proxy won $40,000.
March 27 is a much busier day on the Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule, with three 100-40-20-10 races on the schedule. The Florida Derby will be held at Gulfstream Park, and the Jeff Ruby Steaks will take place at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.
In the Middle East, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) Derby will be run at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.
Although it's held overseas, the race's points count toward qualifying for the United States' section, where at least 18 horses will earn invitations to the Kentucky Derby.
Eight hopefuls have already earned at least 50 points to clinch their spot in the race.