Bolshoi Ballet leads the way as 29 remain in Derby reckoning

All the major contenders have stood their ground as a total of 29 horses remain engaged in the Cazoo Derby following the latest scratchings deadline.

Ante-post favourite Bolshoi Ballet leads Aidan O’Brien’s eight possibles, advertising his Epsom claims with victories in the Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial – a route followed by his sire Galileo 20 years ago.

Also featuring in the O’Brien team as he seeks a ninth success in the premier Classic is High Definition, who headed the market throughout the winter but lost that spot after a blood disorder forced him to miss his comeback in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

High Definition remains very much in the Derby picture
High Definition remains very much in the Derby picture (PA)

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He returned in the Dante Stakes at York last week, making quite eyecatching late gains to finish third to Hurricane Lane.

Hurricane Lane is one of four left in by Charlie Appleby, together with Adayar, One Ruler and Yibir.

John Leeper booked his ticket with victory at Newmarket on Saturday, with the beautifully-bred colt set to be a first Derby runner in five years for Ed Dunlop – and a special one at that, as the Frankel colt is named after his late father.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the great Mill Reef’s Derby triumph.

One of the all-time greats of the Turf, Mill Reef was trained by Ian Balding, whose son Andrew has an interesting contender in the shape of Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit.

Balding has saddled seven Derby runners to date, faring best with Khalifa Sat, who outran his 50-1 odds to finish runner-up to Serpentine in 2020. Like Khalifa Sat, Youth Spirit is owned by Ahmad Al Shaikh.

Youth Spirit (right) booked his Derby spot at Chester
Youth Spirit (right) booked his Derby spot at Chester (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Balding said: “The Derby is still the plan for Youth Spirit. He seems fine after his run at Chester, he hasn’t done a lot since but he’s come out of the race well.

“The key thing to find out that day was whether he stayed the trip and he saw it out well. He’ll go there with no stamina doubts, which there will be about some of the field and that’s got to be to his advantage, but it’s a much stronger race than the Chester Vase was so he’s got to up his game again.

“I don’t think that the track will faze him. He’s a very well-balanced horse and he handled Chester well, so he shouldn’t have a problem with Epsom Downs. He’s a different horse to Khalifa Sat, but both are very talented and if we can get the same result as last year with Youth Spirit, we’d be delighted.

“It’s great for the owner to have another contender for the race. He’s a big supporter of racing and he’s got plenty of horses in training with many yards, so it’s lovely for him to have another candidate for the Epsom Derby.

“It’s the most important race of the year for any Flat trainer I think and to have a horse good enough to run in it is an achievement in itself – anything else on the day would be a massive bonus.”

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