Bolshoi Ballet bids to join Ballydoyle greats in Derby

Bolshoi Ballet has already followed a path trodden by two of Aidan O’Brien’s greats as he seeks to further emulate Galileo and High Chaparral by providing his trainer with a ninth victory in the Cazoo Derby.

It is 20 years since O’Brien secured his first victory in the premier Classic with the mighty Galileo, before following up 12 months later High Chaparral.

With long-time ante-post favourite High Definition and several other colts not declared, O’Brien saddles just one runner in the Derby for the first time since 2004 – perhaps indicative of the confidence behind him.

Like Galileo and High Chaparral, Bolshoi Ballet has warmed up for his Epsom date on Saturday by winning the two key Irish trials at Leopardstown – the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

“This has been Bolshoi Ballet’s target all the way,” said O’Brien, who struck last year with surprise all-the-way winner Serpentine.

“The plan was to do the two trials in Ireland, both at Leopardstown. Both of those went well.

“He came out of Leopardstown well last time, and everything has been smooth since.”

While O’Brien admits only time will tell how the improving colt – a son of Galileo – will handle the undulating track and the step up in trip, he hopes he possesses all the attributes to become his latest Derby hero.

Aidan O'Brien pats Bolshoi Ballet after victory in the the Ballysax Stakes
Aidan O’Brien pats Bolshoi Ballet after victory in the the Ballysax Stakes (PA)

He added: “You’re never sure about anything, and it is a new track for him, (but) Leopardstown is left-handed. Obviously it’s not as extreme as Epsom, but you have to quicken and you have to go left and down the hill and up the hill and all that kind of stuff.

“In Saint-Cloud last year (when fifth in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud) it was a different track as well, and he seemed happy enough there.

“He is a very well-balanced horse. He seems to get the mile and quarter very well and he is very relaxed, very off-handed, and tactically he is very easy to place in a race.

“We always thought middle distances wouldn’t be a problem to him. Obviously you are never sure until you run over the mile and a half, but we always thought he would stay.”

O’Brien would love to add another Derby to his burgeoning CV, but is well aware it will be no easy task.

He said: “The Derby is like no other race – it’s the be all and end all – and the jockeys go out with that in their minds as well.

“There’s not an inch given anywhere, and nobody really thinks of tomorrow when you’re in the Derby. There’s no quarter given by anybody, and that is what you have to be prepared for.”

Mick Kinane was in the saddle for those Galileo glory days – and expects Bolshoi Ballet to go very close, on this next step of what has become known as the ‘Galileo route’.

The multiple Classic-winning rider said: “Bolshoi Ballet has taken the route Galileo took all those years ago by taking in both the Ballysax and Derrinstown, which are strong Epsom trials.

Mick Kinane with Galileo after they struck gold in the Derby 20 years ago
Mick Kinane with Galileo after they struck gold in the Derby 20 years ago (Martyn Hayhow/PA)

“Sometimes the winners might not quite win the Derby, but they will always be in the fight at Epsom and are always at the forefront of Ballydoyle runners in the race.

“Epsom is tricky, and you just never know how it is going to work out, but he would be my pick to win the race.

“He looks like a very easy horse for Ryan (Moore) to ride. He can ride him in front, he can drop him in. The horse seems to be happy with whatever he wants to do.

“He seems to be a very intelligent horse and the type of horse you would love on your side at Epsom.

“Things can change dramatically, and a lot of horses are overawed by the track and hustle bustle of it. He does appear to have the mind-set of a horse that will handle the Derby.”

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