Bolo a vulnerable favorite in Thunder Road Stakes
by Scott Shapiro
Saturday’s feature at Santa Anita Park is the 13th running of the Thunder Road Stakes. The $100,000, Grade 3 event is contested at one mile over the lawn.
The field is headlined by Bolo (#3). The winner of five of 15 lifetime is wheeled back quickly by trainer Carla Gaines after a disappointing ninth-place effort as the 7-2 favorite in Keeneland’s Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) on April 14.
While supporters of the fine-looking son of Temple City can point to his back class and affinity for the Santa Anita turf course, I am concerned that Bolo is moving in the wrong direction. It is fair to point to his second straight win in the Arcadia (G2) in February if you disagree, but I contend that the dual Grade 2 winner fires best when fresh these days, evidenced by declining Brisnet Speed ratings during both his 2016 and 2017 campaigns.
While I can forgive his effort in Lexington, Kentucky, earlier this month – because Bolo has never performed well away from home – I have a hard time finding an excuse for his ploddy third-place finish in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) in March. Some may argue that those were better horses than what he faces in this spot, but visually the effort left a lot to be desired.
It would be far from shocking if Bolo was able to hit the wire first as the 5-2-morning-line favorite in the Thunder Road, but I am going to play against him in this spot.
Sawyer’s Hill (#7) enters his first try against graded stakes competition since a ninth-place effort in the Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) in December 2014. The Red Castle Farms runner was given close to two years off after that poor performance, but appears to be as good as ever heading into Saturday for trainer Kristin Mulhall.
The son of Spring at Last has rattled off two straight wire-to-wire victories after a solid, come-back fourth-place effort on February 4, and heads into Saturday’s 7TH race looking to make it three in a row. The winner of more than $321,000 in lifetime earnings appears to be lone speed in this eight-furlong event and is extremely dangerous when not challenged. If jockey Martin Pedroza can continue to get him out of the gate smoothly, the six-year-old dark bay should be able to handle the class hike and pull the minor upset.
While Sawyer’s Hill is my key horse and top pick in the Thunder Road, I will use a couple of others in exotic wagers with him.
Fabozzi (#5) makes his graded debut for trainer Mark Glatt. The son of Sidney’s Candy chased Sawyer’s Hill around the track last out, but never had much of a chance given the race shape. The winner of two of six over this course has never finished out of the money at one mile over the lawn and appears primed for a career best effort on Saturday. Veteran jockey – and one of the best turf riders in my day – Corey Nakatani returns to ride for Glatt. Fabozzi is a must use at 6-1 on the morning line.
Perfectly Majestic (#1) is the other horse that interests me in the Thunder Road. The five-year-old gelding probably prefers more ground and has struggled to win races, but fits wonderfully underneath of my top-two betting options. The lack of a contentious pace will certainly hurt his late kick, but he should be rolling late under veteran rider Kent Desormeaux. His eight in-the-money finishes in 11 tries at the eight-furlong distance add to the appeal.
The Thunder Road is the 7TH race on a solid nine-race card at Santa Anita on Saturday. It is scheduled to go to post at 4:09 p.m. (PT). Here is how I will wager on the event:
$50 Win #7 Sawyer’s Hill = $50
$25 Exacta 7 with 1+5 = $50
$20 Exacta Box 5+7 = $40
$10 Exacta 5+7 with 1 = $20
Total Budget: $160
Bolo photo courtesy of Benoit Photos