Bolo bids for Eddie Read rebound

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July 15th, 2016

Whenever Bolo tries to take his game on the road, it just doesn’t pan out for him – i.e., the 2015 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont Derby (G1), as well as the May 7 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) last time out. But with the Breeders’ Cup in his Southern California backyard for 2016-17, there’s no problem with being a homebody, and the talented turfiste aims to get back on track in Sunday’s $250,000 Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar.

The 1 1/8-mile test over the Jimmy Durante turf course has attracted a competitive cast, led by recent Shoemaker Mile (G1) hero Midnight Storm; the resurgent Flamboyant, who returns to action after his commendable fifth in the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night; Grade 1 veteran Finnegans Wake; Si Sage, who shortens up off a front-running coup in the 1 1/4-mile Charles Whittingham (G2); and Ashleyluvssugar, making his second start back from a layoff.

As a juvenile, Bolo looked potentially special when trouncing the Eddie Logan by 4 1/2 lengths – a gaudy margin for a one-mile turf stakes. The Derby trail was too alluring to pass up, and the Carla Gaines pupil acquitted himself respectably with thirds in the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1). After his flop in the Run for the Roses, he reverted to turf with a vengeance at Santa Anita, but faded uncharacteristically in the Belmont Derby and was vanned off.

Not seen again until the February 16 Arcadia (G2) back at Santa Anita, Bolo succeeded in running down a loose-on-the-lead Obviously over a flat mile on firm turf. That’s no mean feat, so his effort marked him as an emerging force in the turf division. He wasn’t able to catch the lone speed What a View next time in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), where he was arguably held up a little too far back early. A step up to 1 1/8 miles for the Woodford Reserve on Derby Day appeared the right move, but he perhaps committed the opposite error of being too aggressive early and wilted to last of the horses who finished. Bolo subsequently missed the Shoemaker Mile due to a throat infection, but hopefully he’s ready to fire here. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith will guide him from the outside post 9.

Speed merchant Midnight Storm boasts a 3-for-4 local mark. A commanding winner of the 2014 Del Mar Derby (G2) at this distance, the Phil D’Amato trainee suffered his only loss over the course when fifth in last summer’s Eddie Read. That was held on “good” going, and he later recovered his horse-for-the-course badge on his preferred firm ground in last November’s Seabiscuit H. (G2). Fourth in the Kilroe when not making use of his biggest weapon – his speed – Midnight Storm was only seventh in the Woodford Reserve, but was much more in his element when wiring the Shoemaker Mile. New rider Rafael Bejarano struck up an immediate rapport with the son of Pioneerof the Nile, who rates as the 124-pound highweight and 5-2 morning-line favorite.

Flamboyant, whose best days seemed behind him, revived for Paddy Gallagher over the winter. Nailing Obviously at odds of 46-1 in the January 2 San Gabriel (G2) at this nine-furlong trip, he made it a double over an extra furlong in the February 6 San Marcos (G2). Although the March 26 Dubai Turf was an ambitious spot, the French-bred held his own in fifth, not beaten far by Japan’s Real Steel and Euro Charline. Even better, Flamboyant narrowly missed third, just a couple of heads off Godolphin’s Arlington Million (G1)-bound Tryster. His strong work pattern, capped by a pair of bullets, implies that Flamboyant may return in something like his early-season form. Aside from the question of whether he’ll pick up where he left off, Flamboyant has yet to hit the board in four past tries over the Del Mar turf. But he is a different animal this year. And he gets a rider switch to Flavien Prat.

Brice Blanc, Flamboyant’s former partner, teams up with Brazilian import Ohio. Trained by Paulo Lobo, the son of Elusive Quality is untested at this level, but he just took a Santa Anita allowance to advance his record to 6-for-10 lifetime.

The 7-year-old Finnegans Wake is likewise coming off an allowance score at Santa Anita, raising hopes of rounding into his peak form. At his best in late 2014 and early 2015, the Peter Miller charge swept the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) here, the San Gabriel (G2), and the San Marcos (G2), and notched his signature victory in last year’s Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. Finnegans Wake was sidelined after a third in this race last year, and needed a couple of runs under his belt to warm up this term. He’s dependent upon a pace meltdown at this distance, so he’s got to hope that Si Sage harries Midnight Storm.

Also seeking to move forward on the comeback trail is the Peter Eurton-trained Ashleyluvssugar, whose victory in last year’s San Luis Rey (G2) prevented Finnegans Wake from a five-race winning spree. The Cal-bred promptly added the Whittingham (then held at 1 1/2 miles), but could do no better than sixth when traveling to the East Coast for Monmouth’s United Nations (G1). Ashleyluvssugar was happier back on the West Coast, finishing second in the Del Mar H. (G2). Unraced until June 11, he resurfaced with an encouraging third in the Crystal Water over an inadequate mile. This trip is likely on the short side for him at this level, and he may well use the Eddie Read as a stepping stone to the August 20 Del Mar ‘Cap at a more congenial 1 3/8 miles.

Conversely, Patentar, a belated second to Si Sage in the 1 1/4-mile Whittingham, may well prefer cutting back here. The import scored his lone U.S. win so far in a nine-furlong Santa Anita allowance. Having competed from seven furlongs to a mile in England, Patentar was notably fourth to Toormore, The Grey Gatsby, and Postponed in the 2014 Craven (G3). He’s eligible to outperform his 20-1 odds for Simon Callaghan.

Rounding out the field is Bolo’s stablemate Texas Ryano, a well-bred son of Curlin who’s promised more than he’s delivered so far. A course-and-distance winner here last summer, he rolled in Santa Anita’s King Pellinore before losing his way. Texas Ryano hinted he’s getting his act together again with a half-length second to Finnegans Wake in his latest, and keeps Joe Talamo in the saddle.

Earlier, Honeymoon (G2) upsetter Cheekaboo tops an 11-filly field in the $75,000 Sandy Blue H., a prep for the August 20 Del Mar Oaks (G1) at the same 1 1/8-mile distance. Riri kicks off her sophomore campaign in this spot for D’Amato, and Barleysugar, who chased next-out Sandringham winner Persuasive at Chelmsford, makes her American debut for Edward Freeman.

Bolo photo courtesy of Benoit