June 8, 2023

Bolt d’Oro turns bullet half-mile ahead of San Felipe

Bolt d'Oro hopes that a change of barns will restore his fortunes © BENOIT PHOTO

Kentucky Derby (G1) contender Bolt d’Oro turned in his final serious exercise Monday in preparation for his comeback in Saturday’s San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita. The multiple Grade 1 star blitzed a half-mile in a bullet :46.40, his second straight bullet after last week’s six furlongs in 1:12 for owner/trainer Mick Ruis.

While both moves were accomplished in company, there were two differences aside from the obvious one of distance. Monday’s work commenced in full stride from the half-mile pole, unlike the last one from the gate. And Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza was aboard, a super-sub for Javier Castellano who steered the colt last week and has the call for the San Felipe. Espinoza is waiting in the wings in case the East Coast-based Castellano ultimately chooses a Derby horse closer to home.

But the similarity was that Bolt d’Oro readily hunted down his quarry, this time stablemate Bacoli, and opened up. Although Bacoli, a four-year-old starter allowance type, got a brief head start as they broke away from their respective ponies, Bolt d’Oro caught up to him in a few strides through an opening quarter in :23.20 and easily gained the advantage in upper stretch without trying to put on a show.

Bacoli, who clocked :46.60, couldn’t go on with him as Bolt d’Oro opened up on the gallop-out. Despite Espinoza’s standing up in the irons, and taking a wider path past the wire, he galloped out five furlongs in :59.40.

“He looked terrific,” private clocker Gary Young said.  “No one could knock the way he worked today. It was perfect.”

Espinoza compared this work favorably to the previous time he’d guided Bolt d’Oro, back on February 20.

“He’s ready to go,” the three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider said. “I’m impressed with how much he’s improved since the last time I worked him.

“I knew we were going pretty quick, but he was doing it on his own. I encouraged him just a little bit. He’s fit enough…Hopefully, he can run a big race.”

The main objective, of course, lies beyond Saturday, with the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (G1) setting him up for the May 5 Run for the Roses.

“We have a plan,” Ruis said. “The San Felipe isn’t really the race we’re pointing for…He’s got a lotta talent. He’ll be really good in the Santa Anita Derby.”

That underscores the point that the San Felipe is a means to an end. Bolt d’Oro, last seen finishing a wide-trip third as the 3-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), missed the February 10 San Vicente (G2) after a hiccup at the beginning of the year. Now in this first start off the layoff, he clashes with Bob Baffert’s highly rated McKinzie.

“It looks like the stage is set for Saturday,” Young summed up. “McKinzie worked great yesterday (seven furlongs in 1:23.80), so the two favorites come into this race really good.”

Not to be overlooked, Baffert’s scintillating debut winner Justify worked at Santa Anita Monday. One day after the news that Starlight Racing had bought into the Scat Daddy colt (and an interest in Holy Bull [G2] romper Audible as well), Justify negotiated five-eighths in 1:00.80 in company with Nero (1:01.00). The March 25 Sunland Derby (G3) is expected to be next for the colt on the fast track to the Kentucky Derby.

The Baffert work brigade also included last year’s champion three-year-old male, West Coast, who zipped five panels in :59.40 as he builds up to the March 31 Dubai World Cup (G1).