Early Kentucky Derby favorite Bolt d’Oro will try to cap an unbeaten 2-year-old campaign against 11 challengers in Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar. Owned and trained by Mick Ruis, the son of Medaglia d’Oro will break from post 11 with regular rider Corey Nakatani.
The 1 1/16-mile Juvenile is part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, awarding points on a 20-8-4-2 scale to the top four finishers. Bolt d’Oro already has 10 points toward a berth in the 2018 Kentucky Derby by virtue of his smashing 7 ¾-length victory in the September 30 FrontRunner Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita.
The $630,000 yearling purchase opened his racing career with a convincing maiden special weight tally at Del Mar in early August and came back four weeks later to win the Del Mar Futurity (G1) going away by nearly a length. Bolt d’Oro registered a whopping 105 BRIS Speed rating in the FrontRunner, nine points greater than the next best last-out figure in the field.
Free Drop Billy comes next on the morning line at 5-1 following a four-length score in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. One of two in the field for Dale Romans, who saddled 2016 Juvenile runner-up Not This Time, Free Drop Billy brings a stout closing kick to the equation. Robby Albarado rides the Union Rags colt.
Champagne (G1) winner Firenze Fire and FrontRunner second Solomini are the 6-1 co-third choices. After previously racing up close to the pace, Firenze Fire showed a new dimension winning Champagne at Belmont Park from well off the pace and earned a career-best 96 BRIS Speed rating. Solomini figures to be forwardly-placed for three-time Juvenile winner Bob Baffert and Flavien Prat, the leading rider at the 2017 Del Mar summer meet.
International shippers have accounted for three wins in the Juvenile’s 33-year history and leading Irish-based conditioner Aidan O’Brien will start a talented runner in U S Navy Flag. A convincing scorer most recently in the Dewhurst (G1) at Newmarket, the multiple Group 1 winner has some dirt breeding as a son of War Front and the Coolmore-owned colt has a chance to factor if he takes to the main track at Del Mar.
Champagne runner-up Good Magic, a $1 million son of Curlin, remains a promising prospect for Chad Brown despite finishing second in both career starts. He’s eligible to show speed with Jose Ortiz. Other contestants include Iroquois (G3) winner The Tabulator; Hopeful (G1) third-placer Givemeaminit; and Hollywood Star, who was last seen finishing second in the Iroquois for Romans.