Trainer Carla Gaines was a bundle of emotions following the victory by Bolo, at odds of 33-1, in the Shoemaker Mile on May 27 at Santa Anita.
And why not?
A seven-year-old gelding, in his second start off a nearly two-year layoff, won a Grade I stakes that had, coincidentally, been the departure point for his long hiatus.
On Sunday at Del Mar, Bolo will take the next step on the remarkable comeback as part of an 11-horse field in the Grade II $200,000 Del Mar Mile. And while a win might not impact Gaines as much as the Shoemaker, there's no question she'll feel it strongly.
“He's always been a very special horse,” Gaines said at her stable here. “He's the horse that took me to the Kentucky Derby and understandably he was a longshot, but that was a strong year.”
Bolo was 32-1 and finished 12th as American Pharoah ignited his run to becoming the first Triple Crown champion in 37 years.
The Kentucky-bred son of Temple City won the Arcadia Handicap back-to-back in 2016 and 2017 but it looked like his career might be over after the Shoemaker in June of that year.
“He sustained a soft tissue injury that we knew would take a long time to heal,” Gaines related. “There was some interest in him as a stallion in other countries and as a jumper. There were some decent offers, but the partnership decided what the heck, let's bring him back to run.
“The first thing we did was geld him because he was a very difficult horse to handle, a typical Dynaformer line that's very, very hot (blooded). It was a very long healing process and there was no guarantee he'd make it. But I've said before that it was kind of a labor of love and that's what it was.”
Returned to racing in a Santa Anita allowance in April, Bolo showed speed out of the gate and led for much of a 1 1/8-mile allowance and finished a game fifth, beaten only 1 ¼ lengths by Marckie's Water. Then came the cutback to the Shoemaker Mile and a wire-to-wire 1 1/4 length victory under Florent Geroux, aboard for the first time.
“What an amazing horse and what an amazing training job by Carla Gaines,” Geroux, who'll be back in the irons, said after the Shoemaker. The Shoemaker was a “Win and You're In” qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Mile in November at Santa Anita.
Is another gate-to-wire strategy in the offing for the Del Mar Mile?
“There's some other speed in the race and I think I'll leave it up to Flo,” Gaines said. “It's going to be a jockey's race for sure.”
The field from the rail: Prince Earl (Geovanni Franco, 12-1), El Picaro (Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1), Majestic Eagle (Rafael Bejarano, 12-1), Bombard (Mike Smith, 6-1), Bowies Hero (Flavien Prat, 5-2), Double Touch (Abel Cedillo, 30-1), Grecian Fire (Kent Desormeaux, 6-1), What a View (Martin Garcia, 6-1), Bolo (Florent Geroux, 5-1), Sharp Samurai (Joe Talamo, 6-1) and Ohio (John Velazquez, 15-1).
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