SMITH OPTIMISTIC, SAYS ‘EVERY TIME I’VE RIDDEN HIM, HE’S GALLOPED OUT LIKE A MONSTER’
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 22, 2015)–A winner of a record 21 Breeders’ Cup races and considered by many to be the best big-money rider in American Racing, jockey Mike Smith figures to be a longshot to win his second career Santa Anita Derby with up and coming Bolo, who will try to turn the tables on top-rated Derby contender Dortmund in the 78th running of the West Coast’s most important Kentucky Derby prep on Saturday, April 4.
Dating back to Gallahadion in 1940, the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby has produced a total of 17 winners of the Run for the Roses, including two out of the last three–I’ll Have Another in 2012 and California Chrome last year.
Trained by Carla Gaines and owned by Golden Pegasus Racing, Inc. and Earle Mack, Bolo, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Temple City, had won two out of his first three starts with Smith on grass, including the one mile Eddie Logan Stakes on Dec. 27, prior to running a big third, beaten only 1 ¾ lengths, by Dortmund in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 7, which was Bolo’s first-ever start on natural dirt.
Although Smith, who’s lone Kentucky Derby win came with longshot Giacomo in 2005, took off of Bolo to ride Ocho Ocho Ocho to an eighth place finish in the San Felipe, he’s more than happy to be back aboard for his next engagement on April 4.
Q. You saw Bolo run a big third behind Dortmund in the Grade II San Felipe on March 7. Can he improve enough in the Santa Anita Derby to turn the tables on Dortmund?
A. “We’re sure hoping so. He had a slight tendency to get tired the other day. He made a beautiful run, looked like he was going to be a big part of it, but he just got tired. He missed close to three weeks of training in between the Eddie Logan and the San Felipe, so he definitely had a license to need that race and it should move him forward, but you just hope it moves him forward enough.”
Q. He’s shown good natural speed on dirt and turf. How important is that to you?
A. “It’s good to have a horse that has tactical speed like that, who can put you in the race early and put you in a good spot. It always helps. The first time he ran, he got away real bad. He used to be a little anxious in the gate but he’s gotten a lot better about it and he’s been breaking really well.”
Q. He’s by the Dynaformer stallion Temple City and he’s out of a Chief Seattle mare. Does he have the pedigree to be a top-tier Derby candidate?
A. “I really think he does. I don’t think distance will be a problem for him whatsoever. Like I said, he got a little tired the other day from missing training but every time I’ve ever ridden him, he’s galloped out like a monster. I don’t think the distance will be a problem, I think it will be a plus.”
Q. If Bolo runs a big second or third in the Santa Anita Derby, would you commit to him for the Kentucky Derby, or would you wait?
A. “I ride the Arkansas Derby (April 11) after that as well, so I’ll have to see how Far Right (by Notional and trained by Ron Moquett) runs and how Bolo runs in the Santa Anita Derby and go from there. As you know, things can change a lot in these prep races so you don’t want to commit right now. If you commit now and they decide not to go (to the Derby), you may have cut yourself off another horse, so you just want them all to keep taking steps forward and it should be no problem.”
Q. If you can take a step back, and assess things as a horseplayer, who’s the best 3-year-old you’ve seen this year?
A. “I think Dortmund is the best 3-year-old because he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s the only one that’s been marching straight through. He hasn’t missed training. He hasn’t missed anything. I think he’ll want every bit of a mile and a quarter and he’s already proven he likes Churchill Downs with the way he won there (7 ¾ length one mile allowance win on Nov. 29). American Pharoah ran really well at Oaklawn the other day. I’m not sure how much was in that race and it was his first race back, but he surely can’t be as tight as Dortmund is right now, so I’d have to give the edge to Dortmund.”
A native of Roswell, New Mexico, Smith, who will turn 50 on Aug. 10, won the 2007 Santa Anita Derby with Tiago and he was also the regular rider of legendary 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta.