Red-hot favourite Bolshoi Ballet will face 11 rivals in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom.
Drawn in stall nine, the Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner is all the rage to provide trainer Aidan O’Brien with a record ninth victory in the premier Classic.
As expected, the Galileo colt is the sole Ballydoyle representative, with long-time ante-post favourite High Definition, Sir Lamorak, Van Gogh, Kyprios and The Mediterranean all not declared. It is the first time since 2004 O’Brien has saddled just one horse in the Derby.
Jim Bolger’s Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Mac Swiney (drawn eight) and Joseph O’Brien’s Southern Lights (stall three) are the other Irish challengers, while the home team includes Ed Dunlop’s John Leeper (stall 12).
Frankie Dettori has been called up to partner John Leeper – named after his trainer’s late father John Dunlop. Dettori had been set to ride one of Aidan O’Brien’s runners, but his last-minute availability means he replaces Adam Kirby.
Kirby does still have a ride, however, after being booked to ride Charlie Appleby’s apparent third string Adayar, who will race from stall one.
Appleby also saddles unbeaten Dante winner Hurricane Lane (five), the chosen mount of William Buick, and 2000 Guineas sixth One Ruler (11), who will be ridden by James Doyle.
The William Haggas-trained Mohaafeth (four) steps up in class after winning each of his three previous starts this season.
Roger Varian’s Third Realm (two) and Andrew Balding’s Youth Spirit (seven) have earned their tilt at Derby glory by winning the Lingfield Derby Trial and the Chester Vase respectively. Gear Up (Mark Johnston, six) and Mojo Star (Richard Hannon, 10) are the other hopefuls.
Youth Spirit was ridden on the Roodee by Tom Marquand, with the Camelot colt representing the same connections that went close with Khalifa Sat 12 months ago.
Marquand said: “The only difference to last year is we were probably slightly cautious that Khalifa Sat might not have the speed for the Derby and would appreciate further, whereas this lad went to Chester with a question mark over whether he would stay. He answered that nicely so the distance won’t be an issue.”
Dubai-based Ahmad Al Shaikh will be having his third runner in the Derby – Marhaba Malyoon finished last in 2011 – having attended the race for over 30 years as part of the Maktoum family entourage and being present for the victories of Nashwan, Erhaab and Lammtarra.
Marquand added ahead of a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series: “It’s great for Ahmad Al Shaikh to have found another Derby prospect so quickly and for Andrew, having had the second in the Derby last year, to be coming back with a horse with a competitive live chance.
“The trials are open to interpretation because nobody quite has the full story as to what went into the races 100 per cent fit and who would appreciate the ground and trip.
“It’s a game of opinions and the opinion of the bookies is that his trial wasn’t the strongest, but I think he answered every question thrown at him. For a trial you couldn’t have asked him to do anything else.
“It was good to get a Derby ride last year and Ahmad Al Shaikh was absolutely over the moon. But you don’t dream of finishing second in the Derby, so I can’t say it was special to finish second because I haven’t won it.”