Bolt d'Oro leads cast of local early Derby prospects

ARCADIA, Calif. -- Bolt d'Oro has been taking it fairly easy since the Breeders' Cup, but soon he and the rest of the 3-year-old class of 2018 at Santa Anita will begin their serious preparations toward the May 5 Kentucky Derby, which locally based horses have won four times in the last six years, with California Chrome, Nyquist, I'll Have Another, and, of course, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Bolt d'Oro won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and Grade 1 FrontRunner before finishing third after a very wide trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He is training daily for owner and trainer Mick Ruis and soon will start working out toward a scheduled return in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 10.

He sits atop a local group of Derby prospects that includes Solomini, McKinzie, and Instilled Regard -- the first three across the wire in the Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity -- but one of the compelling aspects of the Santa Anita meeting will be seeing which late-developers make an impact over the next four months.

There might very well be some in the first maiden races of the meet, including race 2 on Tuesday's opening-day card. Candy Cornell, a Candy Ride colt who was second in a fast maiden race at Del Mar for trainer John Shirreffs in his debut, heads that field.

Bob Baffert, who trains both Solomini and McKinzie, has a pair of runners in that maiden race on Tuesday. He's got a number of others ready to return or debut, including Zulfikhar, a $750,000 2-year-old buy who won his lone start July 7 at Los Alamitos, and newcomers Ax Man (by Misremembered) and Ike (by Paynter).

Baffert said Zulfikhar should be set to return in the San Vicente. McKinzie and Solomini will be considered for two-turn stakes at Santa Anita, starting with the Grade 3, $150,000 Robert Lewis on Feb. 3, but Baffert is always a threat to split up his 3-year-olds by making use of the lucrative program at Oaklawn Park in the spring.

Instilled Regard, who was placed second via the disqualification of Solomini in the CashCall Futurity, likely will await the Lewis. His trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, has another promising prospect in Shivermetimbers, who beat maidens on Nov. 23 at Del Mar going two turns and will make his stakes debut in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham on Jan. 6.

Greyvitos, the winner of the Springboard Mile at Remington for Adam Kitchingman, is scheduled to bypass the Sham but is a threat to run in the Lewis or the Grade 2, $400,000 San Felipe on March 10. The San Felipe is the final local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

Others to watch include Peace, a Richard Mandella-trained son of Violence who has finished second in both his starts, including losing a narrow decision to Shivermetimbers last time out on Nov. 23.

On the filly side of the ledger, the local division is greatly in flux as the countdown begins toward the Grade 1, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks on April 7.

The divisional leader is Dream Tree, who won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Starlet to remain unbeaten, but she's yet to run a Beyer Figure higher than 81. She could make her next start in either the Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Ynez going seven furlongs on Jan. 7 or the Grade 2, $200,000 Las Virgenes at one mile on Feb. 4, according to Baffert, her trainer.

Alluring Star, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up, "is getting a break," Baffert said.

Moonshine Memories, who is the most accomplished member of the local group, with Grade 1 victories in the Del Mar Debutante and Chandelier, has been getting a freshening in Florida at Bridlewood Farm following her seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last month.

"She'll come in early in the new year, and we'll look to build her up to some kind of an Oaks prep, or maybe wait for races like the Acorn and the Test," said trainer Simon Callaghan. "We'll get her in and get a feel for which direction we want to go in terms of distance."

Add it all up, and opportunities abound.

Bill Spawr has the most accomplished maiden on the circuit in Midnight Bisou, who lost a pair of narrow decisions to Dream Tree. Doug O'Neill has Tyfosha and Saudi Chroma working toward their comebacks, and Tequila Sunrise is just about ready to return for Richard Baltas. Pete Eurton has Ahimsa, who won her lone start sprinting at Los Alamitos but has the pedigree (by Derby winner Animal Kingdom) to suggest she'll stretch out. And Phil D'Amato holds in high regard Ms Dupree, a daughter of Violence who should debut during the first weekend of the meet.