Aidan O’Brien lining up strong Epsom challenge

Bolshoi Ballet and High Definition give Aidan O’Brien a formidable hand in his bid for a ninth victory in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom.

It is 20 years since the Ballydoyle handler first landed the premier Classic with Galileo, since when he has added to his tally with the likes of High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012), Australia (2014) and last year’s surprise winner Serpentine.

O’Brien would love to add to his total in the premier Classic on June 5, saying: “It (the Derby) is what the foundation of the thoroughbred is built on really. It is the ultimate test and they are tested in every way – speed, stamina, courage and balance.”

The hot favourite for this year’s renewal is Bolshoi Ballet, who followed up victory in last month’s Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown with a scintillating display in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial over the same course and distance.

High Definition winning the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh
High Definition winning the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh (PA)

“I am very happy with him, everything has gone well so far,” said O’Brien.

“He started off at Leopardstown in the Ballysax Stakes and we were very happy with him. He then went to the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial and we were very happy with him in that as well and he seems to be in good form.”

High Definition spent the winter months at the top of ante-post lists for the Derby after winning his two starts as a juvenile.

However, this spring has not been so straightforward, with unsatisfactory blood test results ruling him out of an intended return in the Lingfield Derby Trial, although he did make his comeback five days later with a creditable third place in the Dante at York.

O’Brien said: “I am very happy with him. Obviously, he had a very interrupted preparation – a week before the Dante he wouldn’t have been able to run. He just came right a couple of days before.

“We knew he had to run if he was going to the Derby and we couldn’t have been happier.

“It is far from ideal (the colt’s preparation), but we are very lucky it came right itself without having to medicate him. When the blood first came out the way it was, I did not think he would make it (to York) and I didn’t think the blood would come back, but it did naturally for some reason.

“Obviously, we were going to ride him patiently (in the Dante), kindly and gently, and that is what Ryan did. We were very happy with his run at York. He covered the last three furlongs quicker than anyone else in the race, so that is a very good sign for a horse like him.”

The trainer’s other potential Derby candidates include Leopardstown handicap winner Sir Lamorak and Van Gogh, although the latter is set to first contest this weekend’s Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

Of Sir Lamorak, O’Brien said: “We have always thought a lot of him. He didn’t win last year, but we were very impressed with his last run.

“It was a three-year-old handicap at Leopardstown over a mile and a quarter. He relaxed very well, quickened very well and finished very well. Everything has gone well with him since.

“With a nice bit of ground and a nice pace on in front of him, everything looks good with him at the moment.”

O’Brien also has the first two in the betting for the previous afternoon’s Cazoo Oaks, with 1000 Guineas fourth Santa Barbara heading the market ahead of Musidora Stakes-winning stablemate Snowfall.

Santa Barbara remains a hugely exciting prospect
Santa Barbara remains a hugely exciting prospect (PA)

“It was a big risk going to the 1000 Guineas on only Santa Barbara’s second run, but she ran very well. This (Oaks) was always pencilled in to be her next run,” O’Brien continued.

“She came out of the 1000 Guineas well and everything has gone well with her since.

“She hasn’t been over that far (mile and a half) before, but she is a Camelot filly and we are really looking forward to seeing her run.

“We always thought the world of Snowfall last year, but we could never get her to produce what she was doing at home. Maybe a little bit of time over the winter, maybe she matured from two to three and a little bit extra distance has helped her.

“We were delighted for her to show what she has been showing us the last year at home.

“Physically she has done well since and mentally she is lovely, so it is very possible that she could really take off.”

The trainer’s potential runners in the Coronation Cup on Cazoo Oaks day include Japan, who recently made a winning return to action in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester, and the brilliant filly Love, who won the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks last season.

He said: “Japan is very well. We were delighted with his run (at Chester).

“He could go to the Coronation Cup, back to a mile and a half. He ran a very good race in the Derby and he seems in good form.

“Love is very well. She is doing everything right and is ready to start.”

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