Multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Bolt d’Oro, on vacation at owner/trainer Mick Ruis’ farm since trailing in the June 9 Metropolitan H. (G1), will have a new trainer when he returns to the racetrack. As first reported Thursday by Jeremy Balan in the Blood-Horse, Ruis has decided to send his Medaglia d’Oro colt to Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen.
Friday update: The transfer took place immediately, with Bolt d’Oro already settling into Asmussen’s Saratoga barn Friday morning.
“If they told you [that] you were getting Bolt d’Oro, would you drag your feet?” Asmussen jocularly told NYRA publicity. “He’s here. He’s a gorgeous horse. He looks great.”
Ruis explained his decision in the NYRA notes.
“I’m super busy with my company right now and the last six months of my life were only Bolt d’Oro and the Derby trail, so I just said the best thing for him is to have someone like Steve, who has had three Horses of the Year,” Ruis said. “I told him, ‘This is what I know about him, this is what we’ve got out of him, Steve. He’s all yours.’
“He was real excited. He had been to my farm four times before he even left and I don’t think Bolt was even there a month. To have him go over there and have Steve be so excited about it, that was really exciting for myself and my wife (Wendy).”
According to the Del Mar stable notes, stablemate Union Strike will also make the switch to Asmussen.
Both Ruis Racing colorbearers scored signature wins at the seaside track. Union Strike captured the 2016 Del Mar Debutante (G1) when conditioned by Ruis’ daughter Shelbe, and Bolt d’Oro followed up his smart debut victory with another in last summer’s Del Mar Futurity (G1).
But in the interim, each has crossed the wire first only once. Union Strike, who took the 2017 Santa Paula and missed narrowly in the Eight Belles (G2), was most recently a distant third in the June 23 Chicago H. (G3).
Bolt d’Oro was sensational in last fall’s FrontRunner (G1) at Santa Anita, extending his record to three-for-three in a tour de force and cementing his status as the heavy favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). A wide trip from post 11 proved costly, however, and he wound up third to Good Magic and Solomini.
His 2018 campaign has been similarly star-crossed, from a setback over the winter to jockey changes after hitherto regular rider Corey Nakatani lost the mount. Bolt d’Oro resurfaced with new pilot Javier Castellano in the March 10 San Felipe (G2), where was outdueled by McKinzie in a rough stretch drive but was handed the victory via disqualification.
Next in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (G1), Bolt d’Oro put up a bold effort, only to find himself rebuffed by a brash stakes firster named Justify. He didn’t get that close to the eventual Triple Crown winner in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Picking up another rider at Churchill Downs, Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza, Bolt d’Oro trudged home 12th, and connections believed that the sloppy track was his undoing.
Ruis’ initial idea was to freshen Bolt d’Oro up and point to Del Mar, but the colt was training so well post-Derby that thoughts of the Preakness (G1) began to creep in. Then his target changed again, shifting from the middle jewel to a tilt against older horses in the storied Met Mile on Belmont Day. But by that point, he had lost his form, and after chasing Bee Jersey early for new rider Florent Geroux, he retreated to last of 11.
Now Ruis prescribed a 60-day break for Bolt d’Oro at his Bluegrass property. Plans call for him to resume jogging in two weeks, for an agenda to be named later.
On Friday, Ruis reiterated that Asmussen will make that call.
“I’m leaving that up to Steve,” Ruis said. “Even though I trained him and had him since a yearling, broke him and all that, if I’m going to turn the reins over to a Hall of Fame trainer, I don’t think I want to give him any instructions.”
Union Strike will be in action much sooner, with the August 25 Ballerina (G1) a potential target.
Bolt d’Oro, an earner of $1,016,000 from his 8-4-1-1 line, will take up stud duty at Spendthrift Farm upon the conclusion of his racing career. That was due to happen next season, but Ruis hopes that a big fall campaign may persuade Spendthrift owner B. Wayne Hughes to keep him in training in 2019.
“Mr. Hughes knows how to make money, I know how to make money, in business and working, but there’s no thrill like having a horse at the caliber we think Bolt can be, just the memories he can bring us. That’s my hope,” Ruis said.
“I’m under contract next year in January to retire him and I’m sticking with that, but I’m just hoping that Bolt can finish really good and maybe we could consider running him as a four-year-old.”