Three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Victor Espinoza took top Derby contender Bolt d’Oro through a brisk half mile work of 46.40 this morning at Santa Anita as he readies for a showdown with Bob Baffert’s McKinzie and other top 3-year-olds going a mile and one sixteenth in the Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes this Saturday.
Idle since a troubled third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 4, Bolt d’Oro came on the track at about 9 a.m. with a large group of horses at the top of the stretch immediately following a renovation break. Accompanied by a stable pony, he cantered through the stretch and with stablemate Bacoli, ridden by Agapito Delgadillo, breaking off in front of him as they approached the half mile pole, Bolt d’Oro quickly drew alongside heading into the far turn as he clicked through an opening quarter of 23.20. He then opened up a half length leaving the quarter pole and was given a gallop out time of 59.40 for five furlongs by Santa Anita’s official clocking crew.
“He looked terrific,” said longtime private clocker Gary Young. “No one could knock the way he worked today, it was perfect. It looks like the stage is set for Saturday. McKinzie worked great yesterday (seven furlongs in 1:23.80), so the two favorites come into this race really good.”
“He’s ready to go,” said Espinoza, who also worked “Bolt” on Feb. 14, and is hoping that Javier Castellano, who is committed to ride on Saturday, will opt for an eastern-based horse for the Kentucky Derby May 5. “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.”
With his primary San Felipe opposition expected to come from the multiple stakes winning McKinzie, Bolt d’Oro now has seven recorded works, dating back to Jan. 27, for his return to afternoon action: Three furlongs on Jan. 27 in 36.80, a half mile on Feb. 2 in 48.40, another half on Feb. 8 in 47.80, five furlongs on Feb. 14 in 59.40, another five eighths on Feb. 20 in 1:01.20, six furlongs from the gate with Castellano on Feb. 26 in 1:12 flat and his half mile today with Espinoza in 46.40.
“We have a plan,” said owner/trainer Mick Ruis immediately following the work. “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 (Grade I, $1 million at 1 1/8 miles on April 7).”
Special early first post time on Saturday is at 12 noon. In addition to the Grade II San Felipe, three other graded stakes will be on the docket, the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile and the Grade I Triple Bend Stakes.