Baze caught a field without much speed and put his 112-pound impost to best use, opening up by nearly a dozen lengths on the backstretch run of the 1 1/2-mile endurance test. Boule d'Or maintained a healthy seven-length advantage with a quarter-mile to go when his rivals, including the 6-5 favorite On the Acorn, failed to make up much ground to that point. The Irish-bred Boule d'Or, despite getting weary, had just enough left to post a three-quarters of a length over Porfido and Warning Zone, who were separated by a nose for second and third after chasing Boule d'Or for most of the journey.
"Wire, wire, wire," Baze responded when asked his thoughts as Porfido and Warning Zone closed in.
Expected to go to the lead at the outset from his far outside post, Boule d'Or actually left the gate a little slowly as Porfido and Warning Zone led through the stretch the first time around. Baze was unhappy with the slow early pace and took the lead on the outside into the clubhouse turn. The opening quarter was run in :25.40 and the half in :48.50. When his pace rivals didn't move with him, the 7-year-old Boule d'Or suddenly had a greatly expanding advantage on the backstretch, a 10-length lead with a half mile to go. Predictably, Boule d'Or tired in the final furlong but held on gamely. The final time was 2:25.48.
“Jeff asked me to come out and work him the other morning, and he doesn’t have a big turn of foot," Baze said. "We talked about it, and Jeff said to go ahead and open up around the turn. The way he worked and the way this race set up, it was just right. I told everybody this morning I wouldn’t get beat in the stake.’”
"It just seemed like he was in front for 20 minutes," said co-owner Bob Bone. "I just hoped he'd get to the finish line before the other horses did."
Mullins claimed Boule d'Or for $50,000 from Paddy Gallagher out of a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance event Jan. 20 on behalf of longtime client Bone and his partners Don Johnson and Jim Robinson. In his first start for his new connections, Boule d'Or scored a front-running 3 1/2-length win under Victor Espinoza in another allowance/optional claiming race at 10 furlongs Feb. 29. That got Mullins thinking the Croco Rouge horse might do the same thing at the San Luis Rey distance.
“Well, that was kind of the way we figured he’d run," Mullins said. "We didn’t really expect him to be that far out in front, but the last eighth of a mile had us all nervous – I think even the rider was.”
Boule d'Or was trained in Great Britain by John Akehurst and has experience on synthetic tracks. He began his U.S. career more than 13 months ago, but was winless in America in seven starts before finally breaking through for Mullins. Overall, his record stands at 7-7-9 in 48 lifetime starts with earnings of $544,981. The San Luis Rey victory was worth $120,000.
"My partners were looking for a quality horse," Bone explained. "I spotted this one. I was actually just about to call Jeff (Mullins) when Jeff called me. We also got Church Service out of that race, so that was pretty productive for us."
Sent off as the second choice, Boule d'Or, paid $10, $5.40 and $4.60, topping a $2 exacta worth $55. Porfido, ridden by David Flores, ran second for trainer Bobby Frankel, returning $6.20 and $5. Warning Zone, with Garrett Gomez aboard for trainer John Sadler, was $6.80 to show.
Fitz Flag finished a distant fourth, followed by the 118-pound high weight Obrigado, On the Acorn and Baby First.
The multiple grade II winner On the Acorn, in his second start on the comeback trail for trainer Mike Mitchell, fell far back and lacked much response in the stretch for Espinoza.