Bolo back with a bang in Arcadia

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February 14th, 2016

Bolo, who crushed the 2014 Eddie Logan in the manner of a budding turf star, may yet make good on that early promise. Undaunted by a checkered sophomore season -- that ended in a van-off from the July 4 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) – the Carla Gaines pupil returned to deny 4-5 favorite Obviously in Saturday’s $200,000 Arcadia (G2) at Santa Anita.

Bolo’s renaissance came on a fitting day. For on the second Saturday in February 2015, he received a handsome compliment when Metaboss, no match for Bolo in his maiden win, landed the El Camino Real Derby (G3) up at Golden Gate. The inevitable question was, just how good is this Bolo character?

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to find out last year. The siren call of the Triple Crown trail lured Bolo onto the dirt. Although a useful third in the San Felipe (G2), he didn’t come nearly as close to Dortmund when third again in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), and the dirt experiment ran its course with his 12th in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Bolo bounced back with a front-running turf allowance victory here, only to fade on the Belmont sod in a thoroughly uncharacteristic last. The feeling of misgiving was amplified by his being vanned off.

Although Bolo had been training forwardly for his first start back from the seven-month layoff, the Arcadia shaped up as a proper test. Not only was he tackling older horses for the first time, but his pace-pressing style looked up against it versus speed merchant extraordinaire Obviously at a flat mile. Complicating his task was the presence of fellow 4-year-old Om, another on-the-engine type who figured to mix it up early. Unless Bolo turned over a new tactical leaf on the lawn, the Arcadia didn’t set up neatly for him on paper. Yet the 7-1 shot still found a way to win, and that makes him a terrific one to watch going forward.

As usual, Obviously took a few strides to get going, but soon sprinted ahead through fractions of :22.70, :45.67 and 1:09.13. Under a new rider in Hall of Famer Mike Smith, the odds-on choice was still in full flight down the stretch, two lengths up at the seven-furlong split in 1:20.99.

Meanwhile, Bolo had been chasing in second throughout, never relenting even when the front runner looked gone. His – and new rider Flavien Prat’s – persistence paid off. Once Bolo switched to his right lead, he began to gain on Obviously, who was beginning to shorten stride. Along in time by a neck, Bolo clocked the mile in 1:33.09 and paid $17.40 to win.

A further 2 3/4 lengths back came Om, who held the position of third at every call, but that hides a middle move he made. Perhaps he’s learning his rating tactics a bit too well because he wasn’t as forwardly placed early. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens moved him closer down the backstretch, and Om was trying to join Obviously and Bolo entering the far turn. The only problem was that he couldn’t keep up and beat a retreat.

The backstretch bid, where he made up about 2 1/2 lengths in the teeth of the pace, did not suit him. Om clearly has a lot of natural talent, but there’s a mounting body of evidence suggesting that he needs to get into his rhythm and doesn’t adjust very well when rousted out of his comfort zone. Free-wheeling Obviously has a way of doing that to you. An interesting counterfactual is, what if Om had used his early speed? He might have found a rhythm, even if it were very hot. Whether he would have finished considerably better is another question.

Cape Wolfe and Yes Yes Yes raced in fourth and fifth, respectively, every step of the way in a race dominated by the front rank. Big Cazanova and Prospect Park were scratched in favor of Sunday’s 3RD race.

Bolo is now 3-for-3 over this course, with an overall mark of 9-4-0-2, $408,700. The son of Temple City is campaigned by Keith Brackpool’s Golden Pegasus Racing and Earle I. Mack.

While Brackpool and Gaines are mulling another dirt try for the March 12 Santa Anita H. (G1), they may opt for the usual next step, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) back on the Arcadia course and distance on the Big 'Cap undercard.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Jockey Flavien Prat on Bolo: “We had a good race today. The pace was perfect for him and he got to run a great distance for him.

“You have to be closer on the turf the way it’s playing so it worked out well. I knew the pace was already fast but I had to get out and go (when Om came up to Bolo’s outside on the far turn) because Obviously was still in front of me. When I came up next to Obviously, he picked it back up and I was a bit scared but I knew Bolo can get the distance and in the end, Obviously came back to us.”

Trainer Carla Gaines on Bolo: “The horse had a terrific trip. All I told Flavien was to let him break and find his place in the race. I felt he’d be sitting right behind the leaders and he would still have a kick home. That’s exactly what happened. I’m just so thrilled. I expected him to be fairly close to the speed, so 22, 45, those were quick fractions and I just kept thinking, ‘Oh, please don’t get tired.’ Did I think he was going to there? I’m not sure. I was screaming very loud.”

Bolo’s co-owner Keith Brackpool: “I’m very proud of the horse and very proud of Carla. She did an amazing job. I couldn’t watch at the end. I couldn’t watch but it was unbelievable. Carla did just an incredible training job, incredible. Her patience over a seven-month period drives me crazy, but then in one day, it all comes together.

On what’s next: “The only thing I’m considering after this race is a trip to the bar and getting a drink (kiddingly). (Seriously) It seems like every other horse I hear about is being considered for Dubai . . . So we’ve got lots of options.”

Jockey Mike Smith on runner-up Obviously: “He settled great and he ran really well. They went in thirty-three to beat us; that’s pretty impressive. I wouldn’t say this track favors speed but . . . He just got run down today.”

Photo courtesy of Benoit.