Millionaire Bolt d’Oro, who ran well below form when unplaced in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Met Mile (G1) on Belmont Day, has switched trainers. Hitherto trained by his owner Mick Ruis, Bolt d’Oro has moved into Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen’s barn at Saratoga.
Ruis, speaking to track publicity both in New York and at his summer base of Del Mar, described his decision to turn over training duties.
“I’m super busy with my company right now,” Ruis said, “and the last six months of my life were only Bolt d’Oro and the Derby trail, so I just said the best thing for him is to have someone like Steve, who has had three Horses of the Year (Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, and most recently Gun Runner).
“I told him, ‘This is what I know about him, this is what we’ve got out of him, Steve. He’s all yours.’”
Victorious in last year’s Del Mar Futurity (G1) and FrontRunner (G1), and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Bolt d’Oro returned a winner (via disqualification) in the March 10 San Felipe (G2). He delivered a top effort when runner-up to Justify in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (G1), notching a career-best 110 BRIS Speed rating. But that’s not the “Bolt” we saw at Churchill Downs, where he finished 12th in the slop. And he again failed to fire when trailing versus older horses in the Met Mile.
Bolt d’Oro was sent to Ruis’ Chestnut Farm near Versailles, Kentucky, for R&R. The owner/trainer began to consider handing him over to another horseman, and Asmussen made a few visits.
“Right after the Met Mile, I started thinking about it,” Ruis said. “I’d spent the last six months of my life with Bolt, but I have 1,200 employees in three companies also to think about. I didn’t want to cheat Bolt d’Oro and I didn’t want to spread myself too thin.”
Ruis opted to send both Bolt d’Oro and his 2016 Del Mar Debutante (G1) winner, Union Strike, to Asmussen.
“It was a tough decision – those are my babies – but I know Steve Asmussen has passion for the business. He’s trained three Horses of the Year and he’s excited about training Bolt.
“He had been to my farm four times before he even left and I don’t think Bolt was even there a month. To have him go over there and have Steve be so excited about it, that was really exciting for myself and my wife (Wendy).”
Asmussen wasted no time in welcoming Bolt d’Oro to his barn on July 21.
“If they told you [that] you were getting Bolt d’Oro, would you drag your feet?” the Hall of Famer jocularly said. “He’s here. He’s a gorgeous horse. He looks great.”
Ruis is content to step back and let Asmussen take control of Bolt’s racing program, including the choice of a comeback.
“I’m leaving that up to Steve. Even though I trained him and had him since a yearling, broke him and all that, if I’m going to turn the reins over to a Hall of Fame trainer, I don’t think I want to give him any instructions.”
Ruis has experience of this in a different context, as a father-cum-wrestling coach.
“I taught my boys how to wrestle and coached them when they were real young. Then when they got to high school I turned them over to Wayne Branstetter and, after that I got to sit back and watch them grow and become champions. It’s going to be a nice break for Wendy and me. We’ll be able to fly in, sit in the stands and have the fun without the stress.”
There is another interested party in Bolt d’Oro’s racing career – B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm, where the well-bred son of Medaglia d’Oro is due to enter stud in 2019. But Ruis floated the idea that maybe stallion duty can be postponed, if Bolt returns to his best later this season for Asmussen.
“Mr. Hughes knows how to make money, I know how to make money, in business and working, but there’s no thrill like having a horse at the caliber we think Bolt can be, just the memories he can bring us. That’s my hope,” Ruis said.
“I’m under contract next year in January to retire him and I’m sticking with that, but I’m just hoping that Bolt can finish really good and maybe we could consider running him as a four-year-old.”
Bolt d'Oro photo courtesy of Benoit