by Jon White
October 5, 2017
Bolt d’Oro is said to have been named after the great sprinter Usain Bolt. But in last Saturday’s FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita, Bolt d’Oro showed everyone he certainly is not just a sprinter.
Going farther than seven furlongs for the first time, Bolt d’Oro kept his unblemished record intact by registering a 7 3/4-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile FrontRunner for 2-year-olds with Corey Nakatani in the saddle. This was the bay colt’s first race around two turns.
Bolt d’Oro “treats his rivals to a comprehensive walloping in the FrontRunner,” track announcer Michael Wrona so beautifully and accurately put it during his call of the race.
A $630,000 yearling purchase owned and trained by Mick Ruis, Bolt d’Oro now is three for three. He was a sparkling 2 1/4-length winner as a 4-5 favorite at first asking in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race Aug. 5 at Del Mar in his debut, then won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity by three-quarters of a length at seven furlongs on Sept. 4 when 7-2.
Whereas Bolt d’Oro did not exit the starting gate with alacrity in either of his initial two races, he broke well this time. After that, he acted like a consummate push-button professional.
This Grade I race is called the FrontRunner, but Bolt d’Oro was perfectly content not to be a front-runner through the early stages. He sat kindly just off Take the One O One, who set the pace while carving out preliminary fractions of :23.17, :47.23 and 1:11.88.
Solomini, fifth early, advanced to loom menacingly midway on the far turn. But turning for home, Flavien Prat already was riding hard on Solomini. And even though Prat was scrubbing away, Solomini could not close the gap on Bolt d’Oro. In contrast, when Nakatani pushed the button at the quarter pole, Bolt d’Oro responded readily to take the lead coming into the stretch, then drew out to win in isolated grandeur. Solomini proved no match for the winner, but did keep to his task well enough to finish second, 2 1/2 lengths in front of third-place finisher Take the One O One.
“Wow, it was pretty cool,” Ruis said of winning the FrontRunner with Bolt d’Oro. “I mean, we thought he was going to run a good race. We thought he could get two turns. Now we know he can.
“Ike Green picked him out as yearling at [the] Saratoga select [yearling sale]. He loved him when he broke him. We got him to San Luis Rey Downs and they said he moved fantastic. We got him into our barn here in March. Everybody who got on him said he was special. And he’s still proving everybody right.”
Looking after Bolt d’Oro during his stay at San Luis Rey early this year was Ron Glatt, father of successful Southern California trainer Mark Glatt. Ron Glatt won the 1977 training title at Playfair Race Course in my hometown of Spokane, Wash., and went on to do well at Longacres near Seattle.
Ruis indicated he was pleased to see Bolt d’Oro break well from the gate this time. The trainer said he always knew Bolt d’Oro could break, but that the colt purposely was not rushed out of the gate in his first couple of races “because we just didn’t want him to think he was a sprinter.”
One aspect of Bolt d’Oro’s FrontRunner victory that caught my eye was his demeanor after the race on the backstretch while being pulled up. The Kentucky-bred son of Medaglia d’Oro appeared to be acting like a fresh colt coming out for a post parade before a race rather than someone who had just completed a 1 1/16-mile race at the Grade I level in a commendable 1:43.54.
It should be noted that Bolt d’Oro’s 1:43.54 clocking was considerably faster than the final time of 1:46.32 posted by Moonshine Memories about a half-hour earlier when she won Santa Anita’s Grade I Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 2 3/4 lengths. The Kentucky-bred Malibu Moon filly, like Bolt d’Oro, now is undefeated in three career starts.
Bolt d’Oro’s time of 1:43.54 stacks up well against the other FrontRunner winners since Santa Anita’s main track was changed back to dirt in 2011 after it was a synthetic surface in 2007-10. The fastest FrontRunner since 2011 is the 1:41.95, clocking by the 2014 victor, American Pharoah, who would go on to become a Triple Crown winner.
These are the final times for the FrontRunner winners on dirt going back to 2011:
Year -- Time Winner
2017 -- 1:43.54 Bolt d’Oro
2016 -- 1:43.57 Gormley
2015 -- 1:44.89 Nyquist
2014 -- 1:41.95 American Pharoah
2013 -- 1:45.02 Bond Holder
2012 -- 1:44.44 Power Broker
2011 -- 1:42.66 Creative Cause
Bolt d’Oro was assigned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. These are the Beyer Speed Figures for winners of the FrontRunner (formerly the Norfolk) going back to 1991:
2017 Bolt d’Oro (100)
2016 Gormley (93)
2015 Nyquist (79)
2014 American Pharoah (101)
2013 Bond Holder (78)
2012 Power Broker (90)
2011 Creative Cause (84)
2010 Jaycito (88)*
2009 Lookin At Lucky (89)*
2008 Street Hero (86)*
2007 Dixie Chatter (86)*
2006 Stormello (96)
2005 Brother Derek (82)
2004 Roman Ruler (87)
2003 Ruler’s Court (102)
2002 Kafwain (92)
2001 Essence of Dubai (93)
2000 Flame Thrower (105)
1999 Dixie Union (104)
1998 Buck Trout (87)
1997 Souvenir Copy (100)
1996 Free House (92)
1995 Future Quest (94)
1994 Supremo (87)
1993 Shepherd’s Field (87)
1992 River Special (93)
1991 Bertrando (95)
*Run on synthetic footing
BOLT D’ORO BEYER FIGURE CONTROVERSY
While Bolt d’Oro’s 100 Beyer is one of the highest ever posted by a FrontRunner winner and is merely one point lower than American Pharoah’s 101 in the 2013 renewal, it is curious that Bolt d’Oro’s FrontRunner figure is lower than Paradise Woods’ Beyer for the Zenyatta Stakes.
Paradise Woods was assigned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for her 5 1/4-length triumph in the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes. Her final time was 1:44.34 compared to Bolt d’Oro’s 1:43.54.
It seems out whack to me that while Bolt d’Oro ran quite a bit faster than Paradise Woods, that filly’s Beyer Speed Figure is five points higher than Bolt d’Oro’s at the same distance and on the same surface during the same afternoon.
Evidently, I am not the only one who questioned why Bolt d’Oro’s Beyer was not higher than 100. Andy Beyer, the father of the Beyer Speed Figures and the individual who makes the figures for Santa Anita, conceded Monday morning on Steve Byk’s radio show “At the Races” that “everybody on the Internet thinks I’m an idiot” for assigning Bolt d’Oro a figure of 100 for the FrontRunner. Beyer then explained why he assigned the colt that number.
“First I should say, as a preamble, for 45 years I’ve had a method for making figures,” Beyer began. “I believe in it. I follow it. I’ve written numerous books about it. I’m strongly committed to our methodology.
“But ever since I started making figures I would run into the occasional situation where a figure just didn’t make logical sense. In my early days as a horseplayer, I just bet those horses anyway. I felt like a dutiful captain who had to go down with his ship. But after taking a beating on numbers that I really just didn’t trust, I came to the conclusion that when I encountered a number like that, I was not going to be slavish to it. I would arbitrarily change it if necessary. I mean, my feeling was, what good is a figure if it doesn’t express the ability of the horses?
“Ever since we’ve been publishing our figures, all of our guys will do this. If they encounter a really dubious-looking figure, they might project a number -- I mean, substitute our own judgment, something that will fit the race. And then they will monitor that race as horses run out of it and judge if what they did was correct. We’ll often go back and change the number retroactively.
“I think most horseplayers don’t notice that we do this until you get a high-profile situation like Saturday’s, where at Santa Anita the good filly Paradise Woods wins a race, then Bolt d’Oro comes back and wins the 2-year-old race in a much faster time, and Bolt d’Oro gets a lower figure than Paradise Woods.
“Let me explain why we did this. When we look at a race and try to judge what figure a race should have earned, we’re not just looking at the winner or the par of the race. We’re looking at all of the horses and how they finished. And in the case of the Bolt d’Oro race, had we taken the day’s data at face value, he would have run a figure of 113, which would have equaled the best 2-year-old figure of the last 25 years (War Pass’ Beyer Speed Figure when he won the 2007 BC Juvenile on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park). Could he have done it? I guess so. I mean, he’s unbeaten, he’s well-bred -- we don’t know what his capabilities are.
“But there are other horses in the field, too. And if he ran a 113, the horses who were behind him by 7 1/2 or 10 lengths ran big numbers, too. I just want to cite one of those horses, the third-place finisher whose name’s Take the One O One. Here’s his life story. He lost a Cal-bred maiden race at Los Alamitos, then he wired a field at Del Mar at six furlongs. In both races, he got a Beyer Speed Figure of 70. Then he tried to go a mile on the turf and faded and finished seventh. Now he’s stepping into a Grade I stakes [the FrontRunner]. He goes to the lead, he’s under pressure all the way and he holds on to finish third.
“If we give Bolt d’Oro the big number [113 in the FrontRunner], Take the One O One, who had run two figures of 70 on the dirt, gets a figure of 96 and is the third-fastest 2-year-old in America. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it for a minute that that could have happened. And you would have the second-place horse, Solomini, who’s a good young prospect, improving his best previous figure by 16 points, and the fourth horse, Ayacara, improving his best previous figure by 18 points.
“I just don’t see how this could have happened. Look, I’ve looked at a lot of races in my lifetime and I can’t remember a case where you would have like [each horse in] the whole field improves by 20 points. Somehow -- I don’t know what the cause was -- but this race, I believe, was an aberration. To give the race a 113 and to say suddenly Take the One O One is one of America’s best young racehorses, I can’t do it.
“Now, I could be wrong. After the Breeders’ Cup, we’ll know if we’re wrong. But I think that the figure of 100 that we assigned to the race much better expresses the ability of these horses. It gives the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers credit for a little improvement and it still makes Bolt d’Oro by far the fastest 2-year-old in the U.S. this year. He just does not have a number that makes him one of best young horses of all time.”
Byk said he had not realized the raw number came back so high, a 113.
“He was about four-fifths of a second faster than Paradise Woods, who got a figure of 105,” Beyer said. “And that’s like a solid figure for her. I mean, that’s kind of what you would have expected her to run. So that number’s legit. If we made Bolt d’Oro significantly faster than Paradise Woods, as the final time suggests we should, he would have that stratospheric figure. And all I can say is I don’t believe it.
“I’m sure the top two, maybe the top three, will be running back [in the BC Juvenile]. We’ll see how they perform and how other horses in this field run back subsequently and then make a judgment. But when I originally did the figures of what I thought the [FrontRunner] should have been run in, I estimated a 95. So even a 100 was a little generous from my original judgment. We’ll just wait and see what happens at the Breeders’ Cup. If Bolt d’Oro and Solomini come back and run monster races again, I will say, ‘Sorry, I’m wrong. We’re changing it.’ But I don’t want this number, an unbelievable number, to go into the record books without a little more confirmation.”
I understand why Beyer subjectively lowered Bold d’Oro’s speed figure. I just think he went too far by lowering it to 100 from 113. In my opinion, I think he would have been better off to lower it, say, to 107 or 106. At 107 or 106, Bolt d’Oro then would get a bigger figure than Paradise Woods, which I think the 2-year-old deserved based on their respective final times.
But if Bolt d’Oro was assigned a 107 or 106, what then about Beyer’s argument that doing so would result in figures for those who finished behind him being way too high based on previous form? I have a possible solution for that.
It already has been established that Beyer is perfectly willingly to arbitrarily adjust a horse’s figure when deemed appropriate. It also has been established that Beyer sees this as “an unusual situation.” Insofar as this is an unusual situation, I have an “unusual solution” as to how the figures for each horse to have run in the FrontRunner might more accurately reflect their performance.
My suggestion is to lower Bolt d’Oro’s figure to 107 or 106 from 113, but why stop the adjusting with just him? Why not arbitrarily adjust the figures for each horse to have finished behind Bolt d’Oro by making the figure for those horses lower than the formula calls for?
This approach, I think, would result in figures that would come closer to reality for everyone who ran in the FrontRunner. The figures for the vanquished then would not look unreasonably way too high in relation to previous form, but at the same time Bolt d’Oro would get a bigger figure than Paradise Woods, as many believe is warranted.
By the way, Bolt d’Oro is not the first horse to have a Beyer Speed Figure arbitrarily lowered than what perhaps it should have been. Indeed, as I have previously written, I believe that in a number of American Pharoah’s races, his Beyer Speed Figure was lower than what it should have been.
The one race I definitely believe American Pharoah got a raw deal in terms of his Beyer Speed Figure was the 2015 Preakness Stakes. He was assigned a 102 for his seven-length victory on a track that had become a sea of slop following a downpour before the race.
Dick Jerardi and racing broadcaster Randy Moss are two individuals who, along with Andy Beyer and others, calculate Beyer Speed Figures. And just how much confidence was there on the part of the Beyer Speed Figure team in American Pharoah’s figure of 102 for the Preakness?
“Not much,” Jerardi wrote in 2015. “The one-race monsoon made comparisons with the other races impossible, so it was a one-race variant, never how you want to make numbers. Randy Moss and I thought it could have been a 112. We had our reasons. Frankly, we will never know for sure.”
Whether or not you think Bolt d’Oro’s Beyer Speed Figure for the FrontRunner should be higher than 100, I will be surprised if anyone beats him in the BC Juvenile at Del Mar on Nov. 4, especially considering he already has won twice on that track.
Looking far down the road beyond the Breeders’ Cup, Bolt d’Oro is the current favorite for the 2018 Kentucky Derby at the Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas. Bolt d’Oro is 18-1 among 277 horses on the Wynn’s Kentucky Derby list.
BAFFERT’S STRONG BC CLASSIC SQUAD
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert could possibly have not one, not two, not three, but four -- that’s right, four -- runners in the Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 4.
The “Baffert Brigade” for the BC Classic, in alphabetical order, consists of Arrogate, Connected, Mubtaahij and West Coast.
Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman put it well when he wrote: “Bob Baffert is loading up on bullets to take on Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He put another in the chamber on Saturday when Mubtaahij won the Grade I, $300,690 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.”
Given a perfect ride by Drayden Van Dyke, Mubtaahij rallied from sixth to win the 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:51.32. It was his first start since he had finished fourth behind Arrogate, Gun Runner and Neolithic in the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 25.
The Awesome Again also was Mubtaahij’s first start since finding a new home earlier this year at the powerful Baffert barn in Southern California. Going into the Awesome Again, the 5-year-old Irish-bred son of Dubawi had lost 10 straight after winning the UAE Derby on March 28, 2015. During his 10-race losing streak, Mubtaahij twice faced mighty American Pharoah when that Baffert-trained colt swept the Triple Crown in 2015. Mubtaahij finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Belmont Stakes.
Gun Runner’s second-place finish in the Dubai World Cup has been his only loss in five starts this year. He won the Grade III Razorback Handicap by 5 3/4 lengths at Oaklawn Park in Feburary, Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap by seven lengths at Churchill Downs in June, Grade I Whitney Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths at Saratoga in August and Grade I Woodward Stakes by 10 1/4 lengths at Saratoga in September.
Conditioned by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner currently is training at Santa Anita in preparation for the BC Classic. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt worked four furlongs Monday in :50.40.
Gun Runner continues to reign as the favorite in the latest odds at the Wynn Race Book to win the BC Classic. In the latest Wynn odds of Oct. 4, Gun Runner was the favorite at 6-5, followed by Arrogate (5-2), Collected (3-1), West Coast (7-1), Keen Ice (10-1), Gunnevera (15-1), Mubtaahij (15-1), Cupid (25-1), Shaman Ghost (25-1), Destin (40-1), Dortmund (40-1), Hoppertunity (40-1), Breaking Lucky (60-1) and Donworth (100-1).
In addition to being the BC Classic favorite at the Wynn, Gun Runner again sits atop the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll this week. Here is this week’s ranking of America’s leading Thoroughbreds in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 394 Gun Runner (35)
2. 341 Arrogate (4)
3. 252 Collected
4. 218 West Coast
5. 217 Lady Eli
6. 215 Stellar Wind (1)
7. 95 Beach Patrol
8. 88 Drefong
9. 86 Mor Spirit
9. 59 World Approval
Also receiving votes: Forever Unbridled (58), Lady Aurelia (37), Elate (32), Songbird (28), Abel Tasman (19), Vale Dori (11), Practical Joke (9), Keen Ice (8), Sharp Azteca (7), Bolt d’Oro (6), Takaful (5), Mind Your Biscuits (4), Unique Bella (3), Shaman Ghost (3), Mubtaahij (2), Paradise Woods (2), Oscar Performance (1).
ENABLE DAZZLES IN PRESTIOUS ARC
In my Aug. 23 column here at Xpressbet.com, I wrote: “I think the best racehorse in the world right now might well be Enable.”
I certainly am not changing my mind in light of Enable’s brilliant performance last Sunday to win France’s Group I, $5.9 million Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly. (However, while I do believe Enable is the No. 1 Thoroughbred on the planet, I honestly would not argue with anyone who disagrees with me and instead believes it is Australian sensation Winx, who has won 20 in a row.)
Enable raced second and third early in the 2,400-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) Arc while sitting within close attendance of pacesetter Idaho. Displaying scintillating acceleration, Enable burst away from the pack early in the straight and went on to win in convincing fashion by 2 1/2 lengths.
Enable’s victims were a quality group. Broadcaster Nick Luck pointed out that nine of the first 10 finishers were Group I winners. Additionally, Enable made history by becoming the first 3-year-old filly trained in England or Ireland to win the coveted Arc.
For Enable’s owner, Juddmonte Farms (Prince Khalid Abdullah), this was a second Arc win. Dancing Brave carried the Juddmonte silks to victory in the 1986 Arc, then finished fourth as a 1-2 favorite in that year’s BC Turf at Santa Anita when he melted in extremely hot weather at Santa Anita.
This was his record fifth Arc victory for jockey Frankie Dettori. He also won it aboard Lammtarra (1995), Sakhee (2001), Marienbard (2002) and Golden Horn (2015).
This was trainer Gosden’s second Arc triumph. He won it two years ago with Golden Horn, who then finished second to Found in the 2015 BC Turf at Keeneland. That BC loss was the final start of Golden Horn’s career.
There will be no trip to the 2017 Breeders’ Cup for Enable, though there is talk that she may continue to race in 2018.
This was Enable’s sixth consecutive victory. Her lone defeat in eight lifetime starts came when she finished third in a 1 1/4-mile race on April 21 in England at Newbury in her 2017 debut. Shutter Speed, a 3-year-old Dansili filly, won that race for Juddmonte and Gosden. But it is Enable, not Shutter Speed, who has been unbeatable since that April 21 race.
Gosden trained Enable’s sire, Nathaniel, a son of Galileo. Galileo’s dam, Urban Sea, won the 1993 Arc. Nathaniel, a multiple Group I winner who earned $2,323,588, is by the Sadler’s Wells stallion Galileo (sire of Juddmonte’s great 14-for-14 Frankel). Enable’s dam, Concentric, is a daughter of Sadler’s Wells.
I saw Sadler’s Wells run in the only Arc I have attended. That was in 1984. Sadler’s Wells finished eighth while making his final career start, then became one of the greatest sires of all time.
Sagace won the 1984 Arc. He would go on to sire Arcangues, whose shocking victory in the 1993 BC Classic remains the biggest upset in Breeders’ Cup history. Arcangues, ridden by Jerry Bailey, paid a whopping $269.20 for a $2 win ticket.