Boat Racing’s Higgins Chats Hot Rod Charlie, Love of Horse Racing, and More

The Life
Reiley Higgins of Boat Racing has enjoyed the ride with star 3-year-old Hot Rod Charlie and his friends and family. (Photos courtesy of Reiley Higgins)

Reiley Higgins is one of five members of the Boat Racing, LLC partnership that owns a significant financial stake in Hot Rod Charlie, the third horse they ever owned who posted a front-running, two-length victory in the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 20 at Fair Grounds and later finished third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. After a runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, Hot Rod Charlie earned his first Grade 1 win in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 25 at Parx Racing.

Boat Racing was the inspiration of Patrick O’Neill, the nephew of trainer Doug O’Neill and bloodstock agent Dennis O'Neill, and his former Brown football teammates Eric Armagost, Dan Giovacchini, Alex Quoyeser, and Higgins. The partnership is named for a beer-chugging game they played as Theta Delta Chi fraternity brothers.

Higgins took some time out of his schedule for a fun question-and-answer session before Hot Rod Charlie, or “Chuck” as they like to call him, competes in Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

Boat Racing campaigns Hot Rod Charlie along with his other owners Greg HelmWilliam Strauss, and Gainesway Thoroughbreds.

My introduction to horse racing occurred when: I was about 5 years old at Del Mar opening weekend. My parents, neighbors, and kids/friends would bus down to Del Mar every year.

Courtesy of Reiley Higgins

What I do for a living: Work in financial services for PNC Bank.

What I like about Thoroughbred racing: Competition! And, true teamwork and hard work of the many important people that work to make a racehorse’s life incredible. 

How I became an owner: Through the formation of Boat Racing LLC. Myself and four college buddies decided it’d be a great way to enhance our friendship and make sure we don’t lose tough with one another and our fun-loving roots.   

Best advice to someone considering ownership: Do it for the love of the horse and game.

Favorite place at the racetrack in which to watch a race: The O’Neill’s box at Del Mar.

Should the Breeders’ Cup rotate from coast-to-coast or have a permanent home: Rotate! Love how it takes on a new home each year and allows the local fans a chance to join in on the fun.

My top three favorite racetracks in order: Del Mar, Keeneland, Churchill (yet to make it to Saratoga but heard awesome things!)

Most influential person in my career: My father

My out-of-the-box idea for Thoroughbred racing: Bring back match races. Could you imagine a Hot Rod Charlie vs. Essential Quality match race?

Other sports/teams I follow: Notre Dame Football, go Irish!

My favorite athletes of all-time: Tom Brady

Hot Rod Charlie winning Pennsylvania Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

What book(s) I am reading or have recently read: “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” (by William Finnegan)

Hobbies away from Thoroughbred racing: Golf, surf, triathlon, poker

Favorite movies: “Remember the Titans”

Favorite TV shows I watch: “Survivor”

Favorite foods: Ethiopian Food

Favorite vacation spot: Mexico

Favorite musician/band: ODESZA

Favorite actor: Denzel Washington

Top websites I visit daily: Yahoo Finance, HRN

Most used five apps on my phone are: Email, Texting, Twitter, Spotify, Whoop

I’d like to have dinner with the following three people inside racing: Mike Smith, Mike Joyce, Sheik Mohammed

I’d like to have dinner with the following three people outside of racing: Elon Musk, Tom Brady, Joe Rogan

Best racetrack food can be found at: Keeneland

Scoring a touchdown for Brown University. (Courtesy of Reiley Higgins)

Accomplishment I am most proud of: Graduating Brown University and playing football all four years.

My philosophy on life: Be Happy!

Things I collect: Hot Rod Charlie memorabilia

Favorite charities: Melanoma Research Alliance, Jake Panus Scholarship

Favorite animal other than a horse: Dolphin

Favorite non-Thoroughbred racing sports event I have attended: 2010 College Football National Championship (Texas vs. Alabama)

Three words that define what Thoroughbred racing means to me: Friendship, Competition, Electric

Favorite month of the year: December

My biggest gambling score ever at the racetrack was: Insignificant

What is your go-to or signature bet to make at the racetrack: Win-Show

If you could pick walk-up music that would play whenever Hot Rod Charlie entered a winner’s circle after a win, what song would you pick: Ja Rule, “Livin' It Up”

Favorite fall holiday cocktail: Moscow Mule

Favorite summertime cocktail: Tequila soda

Favorite all-time racehorse: Hot Rod Charlie (Zenyatta outside him)

Favorite racehorse currently competing: Hot Rod Charlie

Three ways to attract more fans to the sport: Do something in between races (concerts, Betting 101, etc.); make it easier for the everyday person to understand betting; promotions similar to “Dollar Days” at Golden Gate Fields.

Who wins the Super Bowl this year? Hot Rod Charlie ... I mean the Arizona Cardinals

Who wins the College Football Playoff? NOT ALABAMA

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