10/02/2017 4:58PM

2018 Kentucky Derby: FrontRunner analysis

Shigeki Kikkawa
Bolt d'Oro earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 for his victory in the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita.

Grade 1, $301,380 FrontRunner Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita, Sept. 30, 2017
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Bolt d’Oro, by Medaglia d’Oro
Trainer: Mick Ruis
Jockey: Corey Nakatani
Owner: Ruis Racing LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 100

It’s probably waaaaaaay too soon to get overly excited about prospects for next year’s Kentucky Derby, but this early points race – which is a key prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile next month at Del Mar – was confirmation that BOLT D’ORO is potentially a special animal.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

He had won his first two starts at Del Mar, including the Del Mar Futurity, in sprints in which he broke poorly, but both his pedigree (he’s out of a mare by A.P. Indy) and his physique – he’s really an eye-catching horse – suggested he’d be even better going two turns.

But this race was spectacular. He clobbered his rivals, winning by 7 3/4 lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure that might even be better than currently posted; his raw time was faster by .80 seconds than that of the 3-year-old filly Paradise Woods earlier in the day in the Zenyatta, yet he received an inferior figure. So, it will be interesting to see if those figures are adjusted going forward, because there is the possibility that Bolt d’Oro’s figure is faster than posted, or Paradise Woods’s figure should be lower than the 105 she got.

In the FrontRunner, Bolt d’Oro broke better than in his first two races and was able to take up a stalking position just outside of the early leader, TAKE THE ONE O ONE. He remained about one length back until three furlongs out, when he began to cut into the leader’s margin. He seized the lead coming off the bend, quickly opened a daylight lead, and was merely hand ridden through the final 150 yards by Nakatani.

SOLOMINI, who finished second, was caught four paths wide into the first turn while just off the lead, never could get over down the backstretch and was forced to go three paths wide on the far turn, was asked aggressively midway on the turn to try and go after Bolt d’Oro, could not catch him, was outrun in upper stretch, but bravely kept to his task to gain the place. Considering he had run just once previously, in a maiden sprint at Del Mar, and that he’s by Curlin, he also appears to have a promising future.

Take the One O One, who was third, grabbed the lead in the opening yards, led all the way to the quarter pole, could not keep up with Bolt d’Oro in upper stretch, tried to fight off Solomini until the sixteenth pole, the weakened late. He’s a California-bred, so he has enticing options if managed shrewdly, and his connections are known for being reasonable.

AYACARA, who was fourth, broke a bit awkwardly, lacked speed and went into the first turn in front of only CITY PLAN while hugging the rail. He remained well back until the far turn, was asked to advance and was gradually angled off the rail going around the turn, came into the stretch four paths wide, and passed some tired runners in upper stretch while no threat to the top three.

ZATTER, who was fifth, was sent along from his rail draw to take up a pocket trip just behind Take the One O One, had to check slightly at the seven-furlong pole while behind Take the One O One and inside Bolt d’Oro, started to lose ground heading into the far turn and was asked to try and hold his position, but continued to drop back. He acts like he’ll be better suited to one-turn races.

ENCUMBERED, who was sixth, raced mid-pack early while in the clear and just in front of and inside of CONTINENTAL DIVIDE. He was asked to advance three furlongs out, but had no response while going evenly throughout. He had lost his first race sprinting on dirt, then won twice going long on grass. The question was: Did he improve in those subsequent starts because he went long, or because of turf? For now, the answer is: because of turf. He should return to that surface for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

City Plan, who finished seventh, was outrun early and trailed into the first turn, raced outside Ayacara down the backstretch, saved ground into the lane but only passed some tired rivals while never a factor.

Continental Divide, who was eighth, was taken in hand early and went into the first turn three paths wide while just outside of Encumbered. He was asked hard with three furlongs to go, but had nothing to offer and was late to change leads in upper stretch. He looks best suited to what he had done in his first three starts, sprint against California-breds.

TEXAS WEDGE, who finished last of nine, bobbled slightly leaving the gate but took up a forward position three paths wide into the first turn while just behind the leaders. He was on Bolt d’Oro’s hip with a half-mile to go, began to drop back between Zatter and Solomini three furlongs out, then emptied out. This was an odd spot for a horse whose only previous race – while visually impressive – had come more than two months earlier in a maiden-claiming sprint. He can do better when back with his friends after hopefully getting some time to recover from this endeavor.