11/01/2017 5:00PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile: Bolt d'Oro looks good as gold

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Barbara D. Livingston
Bolt d’Oro has won over the Del Mar track as well as at the distance of the BC Juvenile.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Only three times in the last time 19 years has the favorite won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. This year’s favorite, Bolt d’Oro, not only has proven to be by far the fastest horse in his division but has the added benefit of owning a distinct home-field advantage over his competition in Saturday’s 34th renewal of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar.

Bolt d’Oro, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, is 3 for 3 with two wins over this track, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in September. He enters the Juvenile off the most impressive performance of the year by a 2-year-old, a 7 3/4-length tour de force in the Grade 1 FrontRunner at Santa Anita. The FrontRunner, like the Juvenile, is run at 1 1/16 miles around two turns.

Mick Ruis, his owner and trainer, is trying to remain even-keeled.

“There is no way I’m getting overconfident,” Ruis said Wednesday. “I’m downplaying how good I really think he is just for that reason, because anything can happen. But, I still think Bolt will run a better race than he did in the FrontRunner. I think we got him 100 percent fit now.”

A better Bolt d’Oro is a scary proposition. He already figures to be the shortest-priced favorite among the 13 Breeders’ Cup races. He potentially could be the first odds-on choice in this race since Officer in 2001. Officer, however, finished fifth.

Bolt d’Oro got off slowly under Corey Nakatani in his first two starts. Ruis said that was by design, so that the horse didn’t think he was a sprinter.

“I think it really paid off in the third race,” said Ruis who owns Bolt d’Oro with his wife, Wendy. “I told Corey, ‘You could take the lead now going a mile and a sixteenth.’ It’s a different kind of speed. He sat second and when he asked him he pulled away. Winning by eight, that was what we thought we were going to get, but you still had to wait for the two turns to find out.”

Bolt d’Oro has post 11 Saturday, but Ruis is not concerned.

“Corey will put him right where he wants to,” Ruis said. “If we have to speed it up a little we can, and then he can ease off the gas. I like the outside post.”

The status of one of Bolt d’Oro’s stiffest challengers was in question Wednesday. Firenze Fire, the Grade 1 Champagne winner, had a 101.6 temperature after shipping from New York on Tuesday, according to his trainer, Jason Servis. Blood was taken Wednesday morning, and the results of those tests will determine whether Firenze Fire makes the gate.

“There is concern,” Servis said late Wednesday morning.

The two horses Ruis fears are Free Drop Billy and U S Navy Flag. Free Drop Billy, trained by Dale Romans, is coming off a four-length victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Romans envisions Free Drop Billy being in midpack early under Robby Albarado.

“It looks like there’s a lot of speed in the race,” Romans said. “It’ll be interesting to see what Bolt d’Oro does out of the 11 hole. We just want to settle. I don’t think he’ll get way out of it, especially out of the 5 hole. Hopefully, he’ll hold position around the turn and hopefully he has a big kick.”

Romans also runs Hollywood Star, who breaks from post 12. Romans said Hollywood Star will likely “ease back and save ground and make one big run.”

:: BREEDERS’ CUP 2017: Fields, odds, comments, and more

Firenze Fire would be a contender should he run. He is 4 for 5, including a victory at a one-turn mile in the Champagne at Belmont. He had a brilliant workout at Belmont Park last weekend and looks like he’s learned to relax and finish.

U S Navy Flag, trained by Aidan O’Brien, is the wildcard in the field. He has made 10 starts this year, all on turf, and is coming off a victory in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 14.

“We had exposed him all year to everything we could expose him to, we didn’t cover him up in any way, we didn’t try to protect him,” O’Brien said. “We exposed him, and the more we would put him into the fight, the more progressive and better he was. That’s what we’re doing again is exposing him. Obviously, it’s a big ask to go on the dirt first time, but he’s a very progressive horse and has been through the year.”

There are three maidens in the race, led by Good Magic, who was second to Firenze Fire in the Champagne. Trainer Chad Brown has been high on this horse for a while and thinks an improved effort from the Champagne puts him in the mix.

The other maidens are Givemeaminit, who was third, beaten a neck by Sporting Chance in the Grade 1 Hopeful, and Bahamian, a locally based runner who finished ninth in the Champagne after stumbling at the start.

Completing the field are Solomini, second in the FrontRunner; The Tabulator, undefeated in three starts; Hazit; and Golden Dragon.