Bolt d’Oro ran with the top horses for most of the 144th Kentucky Derby on May 5, but the 3-year-old colt ultimately succumbed to the field down the stretch and finished 12th out of 20 horses at a soggy Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
The horse, owned and trained by Columbia Falls developer Mick Ruis, entered the weekend as one of the favorites to win the 1 1/4-mile race that was ultimately won by Justify, who became the first 2-year-old to win the Derby in more than 130 years. Good Magic and Audible finished second and third, respectively. Bolt d’Oro, racing from the 11th post with three-time Derby winning jockey Victor Esponiza aboard, officially finished 24 1/2 lengths off the lead.
Originally from California, Ruis lived in Columbia Falls as a young man and met his wife, Wendy, in the Flathead Valley. In recent years, Ruis has invested significantly his former hometown, spending millions of dollars on a handful of Columbia Falls projects and properties, including the $10 million Cedar Creek Lodge (later sold to Xanterra Parks and Resorts) and new stadium lights at Columbia Falls High School.
Ruis dropped out of high school in El Cajon, California before moving to Columbia Falls and working as a contractor. He then moved his family to San Diego in 1999 to open a scaffolding business, and when he sold that business, in 2003, he first dove into horse racing. Ruis later became the owner of another scaffolding company, American Scaffold, selling that business in 2016.
In the last two years, Ruis has once again immersed himself in horse racing, adding to his stable beyond Bolt d’Oro. In 2017, Ruis told the Beacon that owning and training thoroughbreds had become his new passion.
“I’ve got the bug,” Ruis said at the time. “It’s the most exciting thing. It’s like your kid’s in a sporting event — the adrenaline. It’s the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.”
Bolt d’Oro spent many of his early days at Ruis Ranch in Bigfork, working closely with local trainer and Flathead High School graduate Ike Green. Lately, the colt has been racing primarily out of Santa Anita Park in California, winning the FrontRunner Stakes in 2017 and finishing second, behind Justify, in the Santa Ana Derby there in April.
According to a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune following the Kentucky Derby, Bolt d’Oro will not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, and will return to race in California before heading to stud in early 2019.