In the world of athletic competition, the key to success is often peaking at the right time. Being at your very best when the time is right normally equates to success, just ask the Loyola-Chicago University men’s basketball team. The same is absolutely true in the Thoroughbred racing world. This time of year means three-year old males and their connections have thoughts of one thing…running for a blanket of roses.

Bolt d’Oro is a California-based colt that has put a charge into the life of owner/trainer Mick Ruis. Since first laying eyes on him, the San Diego native has had dreams of the Kentucky Derby. Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, this son of Medaglia d”Oro turned in a brilliant two year old season. Electric runs in the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner Stakes had the Bolt charged and ready for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but a wide trip saw him finish a game third at Del Mar. Keeping his perspective, Ruis joked he knew Bolt could get the mile and a quarter distance of the Kentucky Derby because he ran it that day at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup.

Fast forward to 2018 and the road that leads to the first Saturday in May and Derby 144. Mapping out his game plan early, Ruis had to call a bit of an audible when muscle cramps interrupted training early in the year. The plan was to have three starts before Kentucky Derby 144, but realizing the importance of protecting his commodity, the California native decided on two starts and then a trip to Louisville as long as things worked out.

Coming in to the March 10 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, questions abounded about the half-brother to Rachel Alexandra and Songbird. Could his two-year old talent transfer to age three? How would he respond after having nearly four months off? After the gates opened, everyone got the answers.

In a physical San Felipe that saw a four-legged fist fight down the stretch with the very talented McKinzie, Bolt battled to the wire under jockey Javier Castellano amidst bumping and fur trading. Finishing a head behind the Bob Baffert trained runner, the stewards declared Bolt d’Oro the winner after a lengthy inquiry due to alleged interference as the two prime-timers ran a race for the ages. Winning the race was good, but Ruis saw a much greater benefit than the first place money.

“I think the San Felipe was really good for him and his development,” says Ruis. “Bolt has been in some physical situations before and has shown he is a fighter, but that was something special to go at it with a horse the caliber of McKinzie. They both deserve a lot of credit for staying in it the way they did. Man that was one heck of a horse race.”

Another big positive from the San Felipe is how the Bolt came out of such a demanding affair. Full of himself, he has eaten well and continues to train like a beast. On March 26, this grandson of A.P. Indy worked 4 furlongs at Santa Anita in 47 seconds flat, which was the fastest of 93 works at that distance. He followed with a 5 furlong work in 101.2 on April 1 at Santa Anita which ranked 11th of 77 works at the distance.

“We went in to the San Felipe at what I feel like was about 70%,” says Ruis. “We are very pleased with what he did there, but how he came out of it was even better. It is just incredible how he has responded. Right now he is as good as I have ever seen him. He has never moved better. We wanted to have him peaking in his third start this year and I think we know what race that will be as long as everything is okay with him.”

Next up for the Bolt is his second start of 2018 and that comes in the Santa Anita Derby. Slated for April 7, this showcase of West coast talent has produced seventeen Kentucky Derby winners since the race was conceived in 1935. Ten horses have pulled off the Santa Anita-Kentucky Derby double with California Chrome being the last to do so in 2014.

“We just want to see Bolt be Bolt in the Santa Anita Derby,” says Ruis. “I think Javier has gotten to know him better and understands he has multiple gears. He is a very special horse and we are looking forward to taking the next step towards a trip to Churchill Downs.”