Juvenile championship thoughts; Jolley a constant force in major races for decades
By Dick Powell
The ballots for the 2017 Eclipse Awards do not have to be submitted until Tuesday, January 2 and I wait for all the graded stakes to be run before voting. But some divisions will not have any races coming up to affect my ballot and I explained a few weeks ago why I think ALWAYS DREAMING has the slightest of edges in the 3yo male division.
The 2yo male division could be even closer than the 3yos and let’s hope we have the same narrow margin next year when these guys get through their sophomore campaigns.
This year’s 2yo male race comes down to two horses: BOLT D’ORO and GOOD MAGIC. Yes, they met in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar and Good Magic was the decisive winner despite being a maiden at the time.
Usually when one horse dominates another by more than five lengths under championship conditions, the choice is easy. But Bolt d’Oro came into the Juvenile off three terrific wins and may have already clinched the title.
The son of MEDAGLIA D’ORO broke his maiden easily at Del Mar going 6 ½ furlongs first time out and then won the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity (G1) going away in a wide trip after breaking slowly.
Bolt d’Oro came back and won the FrontRunner Stakes (G1) going two turns at Santa Anita by almost eight lengths. The time was very good compared to other stakes races run that day and the horse he beat, SOLOMINI, came back to finish first in last week’s Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) before being taken down by the stewards.
Good Magic was highly touted as Chad Brown’s top juvenile male this summer but was upset as the odds-on favorite in his career debut going 6 ½ furlongs at Saratoga. Undeterred, Brown brought him back in the one-turn Champagne Stakes (G1) going a mile at Belmont and Good Magic rallied down the middle of the track to take a short lead before getting caught by FIRENZE FIRE. Third that day was ENTICED, who won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) last month.
So going into the Juvenile, Bolt d’Oro had a big lead in the division. Two Grade 1 stakes wins with one coming at two turns. Had Good Magic held on in the Champagne, things might have been different at that point.
Bolt d’Oro drew post 11 for the Juvenile while Good Magic drew perfectly in post 6. Until the Classic (G1) was run in virtual darkness later that Saturday, the Del Mar main track was not kind to speed and Bolt d’Oro, who likes to run near the pace, seemed to be at a big disadvantage and bobbling at the start did not help his cause.
Corey Nakatani kept Bolt d’Oro wide and clear but he was farther behind than he had ever been. Jose Ortiz had Good Magic in a perfect spot and when asked the question, the colt responded with a decisive move to win by over four lengths. Solomini was second and Bolt d’Oro ran on well late to be third, beaten just over five lengths.
I don’t blame anyone that votes for Good Magic based on his one win, but it feels to me that Bolt d’Oro had done enough coming into the Juvenile to withstand his third-place finish behind Good Magic.
Yes, it was close; just as Good Magic’s loss in the Champagne was. I didn’t think Bolt d’Oro had any chance in the Juvenile from post 11 so the draw did not do him any favors and while Good Magic was the better horse on the day, I am siding with Bolt d’Oro and his overall body of work.
I know there are no rules in the voting but I try to avoid speculating on how these horses will do next year in the Classics. In 2017, I vote for Bolt d’Oro as champion 2yo male.
Leroy Jolley passed away at Albany Medical Center in New York on Wednesday at the age of 80. Trainer of two Kentucky Derby (G1) winners and many champions, Jolley was a constant force in major races for decades and inducted into the Hall of Fame at the age of 49.
The horse he trained that I loved was MANILA. Jolley won his second Kentucky Derby with GENUINE RISK and if it was up to him, he would not have run her. Owner Bert Firestone insisted that she go to Churchill Downs after running third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) two weeks before and eventually, Jolley and Firestone had a parting of the ways.
Firestone wound up using Bill Mott has his main trainer. Firestone bred the great THEATRICAL and after racing in Europe for Dermot Weld, he came to America with Bill Mott. Off a good second in the Oak Tree Invitational (G1) going 1 ½ miles, Theatrical, in Firestone’s silks, took a short lead in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) only to be run down at the wire by Manila.
Manila was dismissed at almost 9 to 1 odds in the Turf since his win in the Turf Classic (G1) was not considered fast enough. What the speed figure handicappers did not take into account was the first six furlongs in the Turf Classic was run in 1:16 and change and Manila came home the last six furlongs in about 1:10 and change. Like many other big races of the era. Jolley had him ready for the big one and it had to be especially satisfying to beat his former owner.
Theatrical would redeem himself in the 1987 Turf but he did it in Allen Paulson’s silks since Firestone sold a majority of the horse right before the race.