Leaning Hard on the Bard: Much Ado About Bolo

“To Bolo, or not to Bolo, that is the question—
Whether this bettor has a mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of Baffert’s outrageous fortune,
And to stake alms against those favored doubles,
And by opposing, cash ′em?”’

Last week I confidently removed Bolo from my list of true contenders for the crown of roses. Carla Gaines’ talented turfer disappointed twice on the dirt, with the second effort weaker than the first. Further, Bolo fit the definition of “keen to lead” I detail in The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby. As I document there, KTL types have been the worst bets in the Derby since 1992. Case closed.

Or so I thought.

Later in the week, author and kinky handicapper Mark Cramer explained some of Bolo’s merits that I missed and raised a few insightful questions I failed to ask. I watched replays, exchanged a few emails with Mark and became totally intrigued by this horse.

In his 3-year-old comebacker in the San Felipe, Bolo sat off the pace and then made a late run at Dortmund. Dortmund drifted out, forcing Bolo to change lanes. Prospect Park took advantage of that lane shift to snatch 2nd place from Bolo. Neither horse had a chance to catch Dortmund. But that’s not a bad warmup for Bolo.

Next time out, in the Santa Anita Derby, Mike Smith climbed aboard Bolo. I expected a much more aggressive ride and bet Bolo to pull the upset. When he finished even further behind Dortmund than in the San Felipe, I expected Bolo’s connections to bow out of the Derby chase.

They did not.

The astute Mr. Cramer pointed out how Mike Smith kept Bolo wide, as if purposely trying to force him to run further. I noticed that when Dortmund slowed the pace to a crawl in the 2nd quarter, Bolo ended up just a length off the lead. Inexplicably, Mike Smith pulled him back to sit 3 lengths off this dead pace.

All in all, Gaines and Smith might have prepared Bolo for the Kentucky Derby at 10 furlongs more than they attempted to win the 9-furlong prep for it. OK. So maybe we didn’t see Bolo’s best that day. But does he possess the talent required to turn the tables on Dortmund, and on possibly even better horses than Dortmund?

If you believe his closing efforts would be better without changing lanes in the San Felipe or surrendering the pace to Dortmund in the SA Derby, Bolo qualifies as a Silver Standard horse. That places his demonstrated talent just a slight bit below the 3 Gold Standard horses in the Kentucky Derby.

If you watch the replay of his final turf win as a 2-year-old, you’ll hear the usually calm Trevor Denman going apoplectic about Bolo’s fast-paced romp. I quickly researched strong US turf winners who took a shot at running in the Kentucky Derby. Of the top 15 non-KTL turf horses according to my pace figures, 4 won the Kentucky Derby. Six finished in the money. And 12 of 15 finished in the top half of the field. In the context of the Derby, those numbers qualify as a roaring success.

Does all this justify a bet on Bolo? Is he a Silver Standard stud available to you at amazing odds of 30-1 or more? Or is he a KTL horse and the worst bet you could possibly make?

To Bolo, or not to Bolo?

As Hamlet famously said, “Crap! I can’t decide.”

Roger LeBlanc
April 30, 2015


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