The talented Bolo has been compromised by breathing issues at times, but judging by his first post-operative appearance in Saturday’s $200,000 Arcadia (G2) at Santa Anita, that’s in the past. With a stunning rally in the final yards, the Carla Gaines trainee successfully defended his title – and joined Steinlen (1988, 1990) as the only two-time winners of the mile feature.
Bolo’s last two racecourse appearances were duds. In both the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, and the Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar July 17, he chased early and packed it in to finish far back. Although he’d reportedly undergone a surgical procedure to correct his breathing, bettors were circumspect in this comeback, and let him go at what turned out to be a generous 6-1.
As expected, the free-wheeling What a View set the pace while prompted by slight 6-5 favorite Conquest Enforcer. The times posted live on screen were risibly fast, and the chart recorded more sensible fractions of :23.74, :46.92, and 1:10.98 on the good course.
Bolo pulled hard in a stalking third, so much so that Mike Smith had his feet in the proverbial dashboard early. Was he up to his old habits? At last the Hall of Famer got him switched off, but then he lost position rounding the far turn and had more ground to make up at the head of the lane.
The two leaders continued to slug it out. Conquest Enforcer appeared to have What a View dead to rights when heading him at the eighth-pole, but the gritty Cal-bred fought back and reclaimed the lead.
By that point, Smith had galvanized Bolo. Eerily reminiscent of his collaring Obviously in the 2016 Arcadia, Bolo nabbed What a View by a head in a final time of 1:34.51.
Ring Weekend, the 6-5 second choice, made hard work of it rallying from last but just failed to catch Conquest Enforcer for third. The top four were separated by no more than a length, and Ohio was by himself as the last of the quintet.
Owned by Keith Brackpool’s Golden Pegasus Racing and Earle I. Mack, Bolo improved his record to 13-5-1-2, $614,045. The son of Temple City was a smashing winner of the 2014 Eddie Logan as a juvenile over this course and distance. He pursued the Triple Crown trail, finishing third in both the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) before a 12th behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Bolo appeared set for a big second half back on turf, but he was vanned off the course following the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1). Not seen again until resurfacing in last year’s Arcadia, Bolo was subsequently second to What a View in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), then lost his form.
The five-year-old model of Bolo may get that elusive Grade 1 title, with the March 11 renewal of the Kilroe the likely target.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Jockey Mike Smith on Bolo: “It’s his first race back and it’s his first time wearing a rubber bit. I had a bit of trouble. He’s so strong; it’s like pulling on the barn. If you give him daylight, he’ll just run off with me, which he’s done before.
“Carla and her crew are wonderful. He had a breathing problem and they’ve taken care of that. They got him to this race and he just ran dynamite. I’m happy he ran the way he did today.
“I thought I had a good shot through the lane. When Graham Motion’s horse (Ring Weekend) came up on the outside of us, it was like Talladega Nights, time to ‘Shake ‘n’ Bake baby!’ He helped me push by What a View.”
Jockey Tyler Baze, who rode runner-up What a View and was also second to Smith in the Santa Maria (G2): “I can’t beat Smith! What a View ran good, really good. I’m just tired of getting beat by Smith today.
“I thought I had it once I fought off Conquest Enforcer, which I thought was the horse to beat. He came head to head with my horse and my horse dug in hard. Especially that last sixteenth of a mile. I thought, ‘Good. We’re home free!’ Then Bolo…it’s frustrating.
“If Bolo was closer to us, and my horse saw him coming, we might have won. He would have dug back in. He wouldn’t have let that horse go by. He’s a nice horse to ride.”
Co-owner Keith Brackpool on Bolo: “He’s something else, this horse. Carla and I were saying, ‘Get third, get third,’ then, “Get second, get second.’ I didn’t think we had won until I saw the replay – amazing. We’ll take a look at the Kilroe next.”