The Fastest Man in the World, and the Fastest Horse in the West

Profile Picture: Rowan Ward

July 31st, 2021

For the first time since 2000, Usain Bolt will not run track at the Olympic Games. The Jamaican sprinter was a dominant force in the sport starting in 2002, when at age 15 he won the 200m at the World Junior Championships. He competed in his first Olympics in Athens, though a leg injury led to him being eliminated in the first round of the 200m.

By 2008, he had grown into himself as a runner, and added the 100m to his repertoire. He won both the 200m and 100m in Beijing, doing both in world-record time. He dominated both of those events through the next four years, and set a still-standing world record for 100m in the World Championships in 2009: 9.58s. 

In 2012, he became the first runner to defend both the 100m and 200m titles at the Olympics, and he also anchored the Jamaican 4x100m team that set a new world record in the gold medal race. Despite injuries during the next four years, Bolt was still Bolt in Rio de Janeiro. He won the 100m again, he won the 200m again, and he anchored the winning Jamaican 4x100m relay team again. He was still the fastest man alive.

If you're going to name a horse after the fastest man in the world, you're giving a horse a lot to live up to. In August of 2016, just days after the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a Medaglia d'Oro colt out of Globe Trot went through the ring. The mare's first foal, a two-year-old Distorted Humor colt named Sonic Mule, had just broken his maiden on debut impressively at Monmouth. Mick Ruis went to $630,000 for the Medaglia d'Oro yearling.

In January of 2017, the colt was named Bolt d'Oro.

Fast forward to August 5, 2017, a year to the day after the opening ceremonies in Rio. Bolt d'Oro entered a 6 1/2-furlong maiden at Del Mar. The word was out; although a pair of experienced runners were in the race, Bolt d'Oro was the 4-5 favorite in a field of 10. Despite starting a step slow, he soon attended the leaders and cleared off in the lane to win by 2 1/4 lengths, a promising beginning.

Bolt d'Oro went straight to Grade 1 company after that race in the Del Mar Futurity. The last horse out of the gate that time, he didn't rush to join the leaders in this tougher race. He settled, made a circling move around the far turn, continued to give Zatter all he could handle down the stretch, and got up inside the final sixteenth to win. 

He broke better in the FrontRunner (G1) next time out, stalking the pace before drawing clear to win by 7 3/4 lengths. It was a decisive enough victory to earn him the most whimsical Trevor Denman-ism of all: a "comprehensive walloping."

It also marked him the clear favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). However, between another poor break and a wide trip, he had far too much to do late. He couldn't get close to Good Magic in the lane, and missed catching Solomini for the place by a length.

Still, with two Grade 1 wins to Good Magic's one, there was an Eclipse Award argument to make against Good Magic, who broke his maiden in the Breeders' Cup but didn't loom over the two-year-old division the way Bolt d'Oro did through the summer and fall.

Bolt d'Oro's highest moment in his three-year-old year of 2018 came when he crossed the wire a head behind McKinzie in the San Felipe (G2), but was placed first after being bumped by that foe during a thrilling stretch duel. A few months after off-the-board finishes in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Metropolitan H. (G1), he retired to stud at Spendthrift Farm.

His first foals will turn two next year, their owners hoping they can continue Bolt d'Oro's legacy of speed and precocity, and perhaps be the fastest in the world.