At Santa Anita on Sunday, Kentucky Derby (G1) contender Bolt d’Oro posted his first work since finishing second to likely Derby favorite Justify in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (G1), a seven-furlong drill in 1:24.20.
Under Hall of Famer and three-time Derby winner Victor Espinoza, the Mick Ruis colt was caught rattling off splits of :35, :46.60, :58.80 and 1:11.40.
“Bolt felt great,” said Espinoza, who won the roses aboard Triple Crown champion American Pharoah (2015), California Chrome (2014), and War Emblem (2002).
“It was pretty awesome. It was exactly what I expected. We wanted 1:24 so the clock in my head is still working. That was what Mick wanted me to do.
“We started at a decent pace all the way to the lane when I encouraged him a bit, and a little past the wire I slowed him down somewhat. I didn’t want to take the last turn too quick, so it was perfect…I know we’re in good shape and I’m getting excited as the race gets closer.”
“He looked good to me,” Ruis said of the move, the fastest of three at the distance on the day by more than four full seconds.
Bolt d’Oro was a leading two-year-old after going unbeaten through the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and FrontRunner (G1), but lost a championship when a wide-trip third to Good Magic in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The son of Medaglia d’Oro has crossed the wire second in both outings this term, but was awarded the March 10 San Felipe (G2) via the disqualification of McKinzie for interference.
Espinoza picks up the high-profile Derby mount from Javier Castellano, who sided with Florida Derby (G1) victor Audible from the Todd Pletcher barn.
Florida Derby runner-up Hofburg tuned up Sunday at his Payson Park base for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. While his work was not recorded by clockers, Daily Racing Form’s David Grening reports that the Juddmonte homebred negotiated five-eighths in 1:01.40, and plans call for him to van to Churchill Downs on Monday.
And in Ireland Sunday, trainer Aidan O’Brien all but confirmed that ace jockey Ryan Moore would partner UAE Derby (G2) conqueror Mendelssohn in the Kentucky Derby rather than stay in Newmarket for the 2000 Guineas (G1).
Speaking to “At the Races,” the horseman described the decision as “straightforward,” but with the proviso that things could change – presumably only if there were some unforeseen reason why they wouldn’t continue to be happy with Mendelssohn:
Mendelssohn is due to ship to Kentucky April 30, a couple of days after European Road invitee Gronkowski leaves trainer Jeremy Noseda’s Newmarket yard. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Enticed is also expected next weekend from Palm Meadows. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert plans for Justify and Solomini to turn in their final Derby works at Santa Anita, so they won’t be bound for Churchill until after next weekend.
Pletcher’s Derby quartet – Audible, Arkansas Derby (G1) hero Magnum Moon, Wood Memorial (G2) winner Vino Rosso, and Louisiana Derby (G2) scorer Noble Indy – are slated to arrive Monday at around 1:30 p.m. (EDT). Included in the Pletcher squadron is 2017 Kentucky Derby star Always Dreaming, nominated to the Alysheba (G2) on Kentucky Oaks Day.
Two Derby contenders made the short trip over from Keeneland Sunday and settled into their Churchill barns – champion Good Magic, last seen landing the Blue Grass S. (G2), and My Boy Jack, who assured himself a spot by taking the Lexington S. (G3).
Later Sunday afternoon, the official announcement came that West Point Thoroughbreds has purchased an interest in My Boy Jack. The deal was previously hinted at in a tweet by Terry Finley of West Point, which now joins the ownership group of Don’t Tell My Wife Stables and Monomoy Stables.
Of the Derby hopefuls already stabled beneath the Twin Spires, the lone Sunday worker was Reride, a bubble horse at number 25 on the list, who toured a half-mile in :51.80 for Steve Asmussen. The multiple stakes winner was most recently a remote third to Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby.