Right Place, Wrong Time: Bolt d’Oro Could Have Been Derby Favorite

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 2:16 AM UTC

Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2018 2:16 AM UTC

In late March, Bolt d’Oro was the darling of the horse racing media and oddsmakers. Since then, other elite 3-year-olds have grabbed the spotlight as the Kentucky Derby approaches.

Kentucky Derby Top Contenders Preview: Bolt d’Oro

Owned and trained by Mick Ruis, Bolt d’Oro (10/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) is an American-bred bay colt who won his first three races — including the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner Stakes — before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar Racetrack in Del Mar, California, last Nov. 4, behind Kentucky Derby hopefuls Good Magic and Solomini. Bolt d’Oro, the post-time favorite in four of his six races, was the 8/5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. As a 3-year-old, Bolt D’Oro — sired by 2002 Travers Stakes winner Medaglia d'Oro — won the San Felipe Stakes before finishing second, 3 lengths behind Justify, in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

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Ruis, a high-school dropout who built American Scaffold, then sold the majority of the $78 million company and returned to horse racing, purchased Bolt d’Oro for $630,000 in 2016. He sent the colt to a Montana ranch and Ike Green for breaking and early training. It was at that point the promising colt, preparing for his first ride, was named after 2016 Olympic Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who Green likened the colt to because of their seemingly effortless running styles. Said Green: "If you've been riding cheap horses all your life, and old claimers you're trying to patch up, you know the difference between one like him and those."

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A little open gallop with @EspinozasVictor aboard this morning #boltdoro #victorespinoza @spendthriftfarm @ChurchillDowns @KentuckyDerby @ShelbeRuis pic.twitter.com/lpY5qKuvpJ

— Bolt d'Oro (@theboltshow) April 16, 2018

A jockey change from Corey Nakatani to Javier Castellano after Bolt d’Oro's first four races might have been a wise move. Bolt d’Oro won his first race with the 40-year-old, four-time Eclipse Award winner (for outstanding Jockey of the year) in the saddle in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California, on March 10, beating fellow Kentucky Derby hopeful McKinzie in a controversial finish in which McKinzie crossed the line first but was DQ’d for interference after some bumping with Bolt d’Oro down the homestretch. A rematch between the two went up in smoke when Bob Baffert pulled McKinzie from the Santa Anita Derby -- and eventually from the entire Triple Crown trail -- due to a leg injury.

On March 26, Bolt d’Oro was ranked No. 1 in the Kentucky Derby Media Poll after winning the San Felipe Stakes, and he was the co-odds favorite in the futures book priced at 7/1 to win the Kentucky Derby on May 5. But after Mendelssohn’s runaway win in the UAE Derby, Justify beating Bolt d’Oro at Santa Anita, and Magnum Moon throwing his name into the elite mix with an impressive Arkansas Derby win last weekend, suddenly a horse of Bolt d’Oro’s quality is priced at 10/1. That's a testament to the talent in the tentative 20-horse Derby field and the healthy give-and-take of a market subject to the simple laws of supply and demand. The Kentucky Derby will reveal to us all how good Bolt d’Oro really is.

Hanging with the speed horses in the Kentucky Derby might be hard for some, with Justify (107, 104, 101 Beyer Speed Figures) and Mendelssohn (106 in UAE Derby) both blazers, but Bolt d’Oro (102, 101 will be one of the few heading into Louisville who has recorded a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure, although some horse bettors are leery of the Beyer Speed Figure numbers.

Using the good old-fashioned eyeball test in the Santa Anita Derby, it looked like Justify (4/1 to win Kentucky Derby) could probably beat Bolt d’Oro in eight of 10 races, although the showdown between the two at Santa Anita Park was a byproduct of the injured McKinzie (101 Beyer Speed Figure) being replaced by Justify in the high-profile race. Had Justify run in the Arkansas Derby, perhaps Bolt d’Oro would have won at Santa Anita and we'd be looking at an entirely different scenario, although the Derby field would be similar and the futures odds to win in Kentucky would be tighter between Justify and Bolt d’Oro, with the latter getting more luster from oddsmakers (and the public) after a theoretical Santa Anita win.

It’s always strange how one race, and the timing of that particular race, can affect futures odds for big events such as the Triple Crown races and the buffet-like menu on Breeders’ Cup weekend. As it stands now, it seems there are four or five horses who can and probably should beat Bolt d’Oro. Getting the perfect trip, a great ride from new jockey Victor Espinoza and having others such as Justify, Mendelssohn and Audible struggle and get caught up in the pack will be imperative for Bolt d’Oro to shine. Realistically, for your horse racing picks, a third- or fourth-place finish in the Derby might be the best he can do.

However you slice it, there will be six or seven really good horses fighting to win the first leg of the Triple Crown, and seven or eight others who could shock the horse racing world, their talent mathematically stuffed down by the embarrassment of 3-year-old riches this year. Trainer Todd Pletcher, winner of the 2017 Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming, who have four extremely talented thoroughbreds in this year’s Derby: Audible (Florida Derby winner), Noble Indy (Louisiana Derby winner), Vino Rosso (Wood Memorial winner) and Magnum Moon (Arkansas Derby winner). And if you are looking for a long shot with talent whose name might get lost in this mix of perceived elite talent, then this is truly the year for you, with Magnum Moon, Flameaway and Quip all hoping to surprise.

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