Bolshoi Ballet makes Breeders’ Cup Turf field

Bolshoi Ballet is set to be a third contender for Aidan O’Brien in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf after the late scratching of Domestic Spending.

The latter, trained by Chad Brown, was second-favourite behind Dermot Weld’s defending champion Tarnawa in Saturday’s coveted Grade One at Del Mar.

In the absence of Domestic Spending, Bolshoi Ballet is promoted to run after initially being listed as a reserve.

Already a Grade One winner in America, in the Belmont Derby four months ago, this year’s beaten Epsom Derby favourite will join stablemates Japan and Broome in the 14-runner field.

Also elevated to take part is another reserve, Channel Maker, after United was another late scratching.

Cut that hindered Bolshoi Ballet Derby chance not expected to sideline colt for long

Bolshoi Ballet was reported to be very sore on Sunday by Aidan O’Brien after sustaining a cut on his right-hind leg early on in the Cazoo Derby.

Though the injury is almost certain to have contributed to his ultimately disappointing run, it is not thought to be serious and should only set him back between seven and 10 days.

The Galileo colt, who was sent off the 11-8 favourite at Epsom on the back of two impressive Leopardstown victories, was in the right position to make a challenge but he could not go through with his effort and was beaten 17 lengths in seventh place behind Adayar.

“He was very sore this morning. We played back the videos of the race. At the top of the hill he had it, so he obviously got it in the first 150 yards,” said O’Brien.

“Usually with a horse if that happens late in a race it doesn’t affect them much because their blood is up, but this happened very early so it suggests it was a good reason for a disappointing run.

“It was just off the tendon at the back.

“We’ll see how he is for a few days. The lads thought seven to 10 days is when we should be able to do something again with him.”

Connections of Mojo Star so proud of huge effort in Derby

Connections of Mojo Star are excited for the future after the maiden ran the race of his life to finish second at odds of 50-1 in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom.

Trained by Richard Hannon for owner Kia Joorabchian, Mojo Star had just two previous runs under his belt ahead of the premier Classic, finishing second in two Newbury maidens in October and last month.

Partnered by David Egan, Mojo Star defied his inexperience to chase home impressive four-and-a-half-length winner Adayar, and Joorabchian, who is involved in the football industry, believes his Sea The Stars colt has some big days ahead of him.

He said: “It’s very, very exciting. It’s the first time I’ve been involved in the Derby and he’s run a great race. It was a fantastic run.

“Richard and Rossa (Ryan, his retained rider, who is currently injured) always loved this horse and always spoke about him very highly.

“Today he proved it, and that’s only his third run. You have to remember he’s quite inexperienced and he’s going to get better from here, and he’s going to be brilliant. Richard has a lot of belief in the horse and thinks he can go further and further, so we are very excited.

“I remember when we bought him Ross Doyle was very keen on him. Since then we’ve been patient with him and it’s proving to be very successful, as finishing second in the Derby is not an easy thing to do. We are a young operation – still a baby operation – and we are up against the big Goliaths.

“I’m loving being in racing.”

Hannon added: “This is a massive day for the owner. There’s more to life than winning the Derby, and it’s just what he needs. He wanted to come here and we always thought he was very good. He’s got loads of horses and that will cheer him up.

“We’ve got enough money now from this to throw at some fancy entries.”

Adayar was one of three runners for Charlie Appleby, who also saddled third-placed Hurricane Lane. He said: “He’s finished third in a Derby and is going to be a contender in some of the other big races in the year.”

Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney was fourth for veteran handler Jim Bolger, and jockey Kevin Manning thought it was a fair effort.

He said: “I had a good run all the way, but he just didn’t pick up in the straight. The ground may have been a bit dead for him, but it was a good run.”

Third Realm, conqueror of Adayar in Lingfield Derby Trial, was a further neck back in fifth for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni.

The rider said: “It was a pleasing run. I followed the winner through and he just got a little bit tight for room, but he stayed on quite well and didn’t disgrace himself.

“He’s still a young horse, very lightly raced and it was a nice run.”

Bolshoi Ballet was sent off the 11-8 market leader, but could finish only seventh as the sole representative for Aidan O’Brien this year.

The Ballydoyle handler said: “He just ran a bit lifeless. What the reason was, I’m not sure.

“It doesn’t work every day. That’s the way life is.

“I don’t want to make excuses because I don’t want to take away from the other horses.

“He was in the perfect position. He wants nice ground and maybe that was the reason.”

It was subsequently found at a post-race examination by the veterinary officer that the Galileo colt had been struck into on his right-hind in the early stages of the race.

Tom Marquand, rider of eighth-placed Youth Spirit, thought his mount had found the 12-furlong trip a stretch.

He said: “He probably melted a bit just beforehand – we travelled beautifully throughout and (they) probably just galloped the legs off him over a mile and a half on this ground.

“We’ll probably come back a couple of furlongs and hopefully see him back to his best.”

John Leeper was well fancied for Ed Dunlop and Frankie Dettori, but he trailed home in ninth place on his first try at the distance.

Dettori said: “It was just too far for him at this stage of his life. We’ll go back to a mile and a quarter.”

The Mark Johnston-trained Gear Up set the early gallop and was in front until the two-furlong marker, but eventually beaten a total of 21 lengths.

Jockey Ben Curtis said: “My race was very straightforward. We jumped out, led and everything went perfectly. I thought I’d pick up nicely heading into the straight and then I just lacked maybe for a gear up the home straight.”

Southern Lights finished last of the 11 contenders on what was just his fourth outing for trainer Joseph O’Brien.

Rider Declan McDonogh said: “He was disappointing. He got a lot of bumping around and had a tough trip, but he probably just wasn’t ready for the experience.”

Derby delight for bookies as Adayar scoops Epsom honours

Bookmakers were struggling to contain their delight after Adayar stormed to Cazoo Derby success at Epsom.

Aidan O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet was sent off the red-hot 11-8 favourite and although seemingly in the ideal position approaching the business end of the mile-and-a-half showpiece, he could only manage a well-beaten seventh under Ryan Moore.

Others fancied contenders that failed to make an impact were Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney and John Leeper, the mount of Frankie Dettori.

Adding further joy for the layers was 50-1 chance Mojo Star finishing second to the 16-1 winner.

Bookmakers shared Adam Kirby's delight at the Derby result
Bookmakers shared Adam Kirby’s delight at the Derby result (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Coral’s David Stevens said: “The Derby is always the biggest betting race of the Flat season, and going into this year’s renewal, two horses emerged as the most popular with punters, favourite Bolshoi Ballet and Frankie Dettori’s mount, John Leeper.

“But neither could land a blow once the stalls opened, and although Adayar attracted some late support, his victory was still very much in our favour.”

For Ladbrokes, Nicola McGeady said: “Adam Kirby is the toast of Ladbrokes this afternoon after landing the Derby on Adayar. Every horse in this year’s renewal attracted support at some stage, but Adayar was the best result in the book.”

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield added: “The winner didn’t go unsupported each-way at fancy prices, but despite that and Mac Swiney finishing fourth not being ideal with our extra place, it was still a good result for us.”

Looking to the future, Coral make Adayar the 4-1 favourite for the St Leger, while Ladbrokes quote the son of Frankel at 8-1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

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.”

Bolshoi Ballet tops Derby dozen chasing Classic glory

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.

Hurricane Lane (left) winning the Dante at York
Hurricane Lane (left) winning the Dante at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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.

Youth Spirit (centre) in winning action at Chester
Youth Spirit (centre) in winning action at Chester (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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.”

Final decision yet to be made on O’Brien’s Derby team

The make-up of Aidan O’Brien’s team for the Cazoo Derby has yet to be finalised, with the Ballydoyle handler describing the Epsom showpiece as “the most important race of all”.

It is 20 years since the great Galileo provided O’Brien with his first Derby success. A couple of decades on, his tally stands at a record eight victories.

The hot favourite for Saturday’s renewal is Bolshoi Ballet, while High Definition, Van Gogh, Sir Lamorak, Kyprios and The Mediterranean are also in the mix, with the latter the only one who will almost certainly not line up as he is declared to run at Leopardstown on Thursday.

“It’s not definite yet what we’re sending. They’ve all done their last piece of work this morning and that is being analysed at the moment,” the trainer said on Tuesday afternoon.

“When the figures come back from all those works, they’ll be sent to the lads (owners) this evening. They’ll be blooded and scoped in the morning and we’ll have the results of that at lunchtime tomorrow or a little bit later. After that we’ll see what the lads want to do.

“Obviously with Bolshoi Ballet, this has been his target all the way. High Definition the same, but he didn’t have a clear passage obviously to York.

“Kyprios and Sir Lamorak both have other options, The Mediterranean is in at Leopardstown on Thursday and Van Gogh has an option of going to France (French Derby on Sunday).

“It’s really going depend on what the lads want to do, how many they want to go with and in what order.

“Everything went well this morning and it’s so far so good with them.”

Aidan O'Brien following Bolshoi Ballet's latest victory
Aidan O’Brien following Bolshoi Ballet’s latest victory (Brian Lawless/PA)

Bolshoi Ballet has earned his place at the top of the Derby market by dominating his rivals in Ireland’s two key trials at Leopardstown – the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

O’Brien said: “We’re very happy that he’s well and everything is well with him.

“The plan was to travel him last year (ran in France) so that we didn’t travel him in the spring this year. The plan was to do the two trials at Leopardstown and both of those went well.

“He came out of Leopardstown well the last time and everything has gone smoothly with him since.”

High Definition spent the winter months as Derby favourite, but missed an intended appearance in the Lingfield Derby Trial due to unsatisfactory blood results – instead returning five days later in the Dante at York, in which he finished a creditable third.

“We were delighted to get the run into him. It looked like we weren’t going to get the run into him the week before – and if that had happened, it would have ruled him out of Epsom straight away,” O’Brien added.

“Running him gave him the option of going to Epsom. He hasn’t had as much time from York to the Derby as Bolshoi Ballet has had, but he seems in good form.

“The little thing he got in his blood, we don’t know where it came from or where it went, but it was there for four or five days. I suppose we’ll be a little bit on tenterhooks when he’s blooded in the morning, to see what way that comes back.

“We’ve been happy with him since York in everything that he has been doing.”

While O’Brien appears to hold a formidable hand, he will not be taking anything for granted.

Sir Lamorak (right) is also in Derby contention
Sir Lamorak (right) is also in Derby contention (PA)

He said: “I think it’s very competitive. There’s horses that have come from different trials over different trips and I think they all have to be respected.

“Every Derby is very competitive – I don’t remember one that wasn’t. There’s always different stories as to how horses got to the position they’re in.

“For me, there is no doubt the Derby is the most important race of all. The whole thoroughbred breed is measured by the Derby – because it’s the most gruelling race and tough on horses.

“It’s left and it’s right and they have to stay and handle everything – it just tests a horse in every way. Everyone knows Epsom is an unusual track and it’s the ultimate test for them really.”

Bolshoi Ballet tops Derby contenders

Ante-post favourite Bolshoi Ballet heads a potential six-strong squad for Aidan O’Brien in Saturday’s Cazoo Derby at Epsom.

The Galileo colt is a general 7-4 chance for the premier Classic after impressing with comfortable victories in both the Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on his two starts so far this year.

Next best in the betting is stablemate High Definition, who was the winter Derby favourite before being deposed by Bolshoi Ballet and finished third on his recent reappearance in the Dante Stakes at York.

O’Brien also has Kyprios, Sir Lamorak, The Mediterranean and Van Gogh in contention at this stage.

Hurricane Lane (second left) won the Dante at York
Hurricane Lane (second left) won the Dante at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Dante winner Hurricane Lane is set to be in opposition again and is one of three possibles for Charlie Appleby – along with One Ruler, who finished sixth in the 2000 Guineas and pleased connections in an Epsom spin last Monday.

The Godolphin handler also has Adayar, who has finished second in Derby trials at both Sandown and Lingfield this term.

Dual champion jockey Oisin Murphy is due to ride Adayar, with William Buick choosing Hurricane Lane and James Doyle on One Ruler.

Adayar will be ridden by dual champion jockey Oisin Murphy in the Derb
Adayar will be ridden by dual champion jockey Oisin Murphy in the Derby (Tim Goode/PA)

Murphy told Sky Sports Racing: “Godolphin and Charlie Appleby have given me the ride.

“I had a sit on him last week. He felt really nice – it was a sensible canter, but he’s a gorgeous horse, improving type, bred for the job.

“I’m super-excited to be involved in the race.

“He’s by Frankel out of a Dubawi mare, and he’s lightly-raced, so who knows (if the ground will suit). But he is a big, strong horse – and the ground at Epsom is never allowed to get super-fast, because of the undulations of the track. They do a brilliant job there.

“I’d like to win a Derby – hopefully it’s this year.”

Jim Bolger’s Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney brings Classic form to the table, having edged out stablemate Poetic Flare in a thrilling finish at the Curragh nearly two weeks ago, with Joseph O’Brien’s Southern Lights and rank outsider Seattle Sound from Luke Comer’s yard the other Irish-trained possibles.

John Leeper and jockey Adam Kirby enjoyed a racecourse gallop at Epsom last week
John Leeper and jockey Adam Kirby enjoyed a racecourse gallop at Epsom last week (Adam Davy/PA)

John Leeper is set to represent Ed Dunlop as he takes a huge step up in company after winning a Newcastle novice contest and a Listed heat at Newmarket so far.

Bred to be a champion as a son of Frankel out of Dunlop’s Oaks winner Snow Fairy, the colt would be a poignant winner for the team because he is named after Dunlop’s father.

Mohaafeth is another who will be making a significant move up in class, having won each of his three starts for William Haggas this term.

A Lingfield novice victory was supplemented by a handicap success at Newmarket, before the Frankel colt cantered home five lengths clear in the Listed Newmarket Stakes on his most recent run.

Roger Varian’s Lingfield Derby Trial winner Third Realm and Andrew Balding’s Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit are two other trial winners in the mix – with Mark Johnston’s Gear Up, the Martyn Meade-trained Lone Eagle and Richard Hannon’s maiden Mojo Star completing the 19 contenders.

‘Not set in stone’ but O’Brien expecting Moore to side with Bolshoi Ballet in Derby

Aidan O’Brien admits it will be “very hard to overlook Bolshoi Ballet” when the time comes for Ryan Moore to choose which of Ballydoyle’s contenders to ride in the Cazoo Derby.

O’Brien, who currently still has eight possible runners among the remaining entries for the Epsom Classic next weekend, has a familiar stranglehold on the top of the ante-post market with favourite Bolshoi Ballet and High Definition.

The latter was to the fore with bookmakers throughout most of the winter, but encountered an interrupted preparation before a delayed first appearance in his three-year-old campaign when an eyecatching third in this month’s Dante Stakes at York – with Moore riding him for the first time.

Bolshoi Ballet has looked the part so far this year
Bolshoi Ballet has looked the part so far this year (PA)

Bolshoi Ballet had by then become the new market leader following his convincing Leopardstown victories under Moore in both the Ballysax and then Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes.

O’Brien told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme: “Bolshoi has won the two most important trials here in Ireland. Then I suppose High Definition went and ran a very good race in the Dante.

“So we’d like to see what’s going to happen now on Monday or Tuesday (at their final gallops).

“But I suppose at the moment it’s very hard to overlook Bolshoi Ballet.”

High Definition spent the winter as Derby favourite
High Definition spent the winter as Derby favourite (PA)

O’Brien plans to test the credentials of all eight possibles over the next two days, and then begin to finalise his contingent – and their riders – following discussions with principal owners Coolmore.

The eight-time Derby-winning trainer also indicated Frankie Dettori is highly likely to be among his jockeys at Epsom this year, with reports elsewhere suggesting the Italian is the obvious choice to partner whichever of the top hopes stable jockey Moore does not.

“We don’t ever put Ryan under any kind of pressure until obviously he has to make his mind up,” said O’Brien.

“But obviously everything has gone well with Bolshoi Ballet so far from each run to run.

“So obviously, if you were in Ryan’s position, you’re probably thinking that way.

“But that could change very quickly, and nothing is set in stone until he makes that decision really.”

Aidan O'Brien with Frankie Dettori after Mother Earth's 1000 Guineas victory
Aidan O’Brien with Frankie Dettori after Mother Earth’s 1000 Guineas victory (Mike Egerton/PA)

Noting the two colts’ contrasting starts to the season, O’Brien added: “At the moment everything has gone very smooth and well for Bolshoi Ballet.

“Obviously High Definition’s preparation was a little bit interrupted.

“So I suppose Ryan has to make that call.”

As for Dettori’s involvement, the Tipperary trainer – for whom the Italian won the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket with Mother Earth – said: “Absolutely, we’re delighted to always have Frankie.”

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.”

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)

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.”

Bolshoi Ballet powers to Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial demolition

Bolshoi Ballet leapt to the head of the Cazoo Derby ante-post market with an impressive trial victory at Leopardstown.

Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt was far too good for his rivals in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes – a race which has been springboard to a succession of the Ballydoyle trainer’s champions over the years.

Ryan Moore tracked big outsider Wexford Soil in the early stages of the Group Three, before taking over with three furlongs to run and quickly scooting clear with a quarter of a mile to run.

The outcome was instantly beyond doubt, and the even-money favourite crossed the line six lengths clear of his vain pursuers, led by stablemate Lough Derg.

Mac Swiney failed to boost his Derby prospects by managing only a near seven-length fourth.

Bolshoi Ballet, who was following up his course-and-distance victory in the Ballysax Stakes last month, was quickly promoted to outright favouritism for next month’s Derby – at as short as 7-4 with Coral, as he follows a route famously trod by his sire.

He had previously shared the top of the market at around 5-1 with unbeaten stablemate High Definition, who had to miss his intended prep run in Lingfield’s Derby Trial on Saturday because of a poor blood test but may yet be in action in the Dante Stakes at York this week.

O’Brien was notable among the admirers of Bolshoi Ballet’s performance.

“He’s very uncomplicated, quickens, relaxes,” he said.

“We always loved him. He travelled to France last year (fifth in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud) in ground that we knew he wouldn’t like – but we wanted to travel him for experience.

“We are delighted with that and we couldn’t have asked for any more from him.

“There was an even pace which was great. He quickened well and he gets it (the trip).”

Moore added: “He’s a very professional horse and was always travelling beautifully through the race. He’s very smooth and ticks a lot of boxes.

“It was a proper test today, and that will stand him in good stead for what comes next.

“It’s very windy, and inexperienced horses are getting knocked around. He has a super attitude and is a straightforward horse.”

O’Brien confirmed High Definition still has a chance of taking part in Thursday’s Derby trial at York, which he reiterated is paramount for his participation at Epsom.

He said: “High Definition will do a bit in the morning, and we are hoping that he might go to York.

“His blood count is still coming down – it’s not 100 per cent yet, but it’s a lot better than it was. It’s nearly there.

“We need to run obviously. He has to get out if he’s going to the Derby.

“He’s not been medicated, because we couldn’t find anything.”

Mac Swiney aiming to underline Classic claims in Derrinstown

A week on from teaming up to land the Qipco 2000 Guineas, Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning unleash another potential Classic contender at Leopardstown on Sunday when Mac Swiney returns to action for the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

The veteran trainer and jockey combination struck gold in a thrilling renewal of the Newmarket showpiece, with Poetic Flare following in the hoofprints of his sire Dawn Approach as he came out in top in a pulsating three-way finish.

Mac Swiney, winner of the Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on his final appearance as a juvenile, was also under consideration for the Guineas, but Bolger ultimately decided to split his aces.

“I’m very happy with Mac Swiney,” he said.

“I’m staying at a mile with Poetic Flare. He’s come out of Newmarket well and hopefully he’ll be ready to run for Paris (French 2000 Guineas) on Sunday week.

“Mac Swiney will be running over a mile and a quarter at Leopardstown and we’ll take it from there.”

The Coolcullen handler is hoping Mac Swiney can earn himself a shot at the Cazoo Derby at Epsom, which Bolger and Manning famously won with his sire New Approach in 2008.

Mac Swiney and jockey Kevin Manning after winning at the Curragh
Mac Swiney and jockey Kevin Manning after winning at the Curragh (PA)

Although the chestnut colt’s high-profile juvenile wins in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh and at Doncaster came in soft and heavy ground, Bolger would not be concerned by quicker conditions.

“He’ll go on any ground,” the trainer added.

Mac Swiney’s biggest threat appears to be Bolshoi Ballet, who will bid to provide Aidan O’Brien with his 14th Derrinstown victory.

Subsequent Epsom heroes Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002) are among the former Ballydoyle superstars to win this key trial, as well as the brilliant stayer Yeats (2004).

Just like Galileo, High Chaparral and Yeats, Bolshoi Ballet lines up off the back of winning the Ballysax Stakes over the same course and distance four weeks ago.

Bolshoi Ballet (centre) winning the Ballysax Stakes
Bolshoi Ballet (centre) winning the Ballysax Stakes (PA)

O’Brien said: “It was always the plan to go for the Derrinstown after he won the Ballysax.

“Everything has gone well with him since and he seems to be in good form.

“We’re happy with him and looking forward to his run.”

O’Brien has a second string to his bow in Lough Derg, who won on his Dundalk debut before finishing fourth in the Ballysax, while son Donnacha saddles the sixth from the same race in Fernando Vichi and his brother Joseph runs course-and-distance winner Southern Lights.

Joseph O’Brien told Betfair: “Southern Lights is a gorgeous horse that we’ve always had high hopes for.

“We really liked his performance when he won a maiden over this course and distance last month. He is a very laid-back character and he seemed to wake up as the race progressed. It was a really pleasing performance.

“This is obviously a huge step up in class for him, but he has earned the chance to be tested in a race like this and we can’t wait to see how he measures up.”

Jessica Harrington’s Ballysax third Taipan, the Ger Lyons-trained Team Of Firsts and Bolger’s possible pacemaker Wexford Soil complete the line-up.

The Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial is preceded by two other Group Three contests in the Amethyst Stakes and the Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial.

Joseph O'Brien has a strong hand in the Amethyst Stakes
Joseph O’Brien has a strong hand in the Amethyst Stakes (PA)

The Amethyst field is headed by the Ado McGuinness-trained Bowerman and also features three runners from Joseph O’Brien’s yard in Numerian, Raise You and Snapraeterea.

“Raise You seems to have benefited from being gelded and made a winning return to action in a handicap at the Curragh last time. This is obviously a much stronger race, but he has the class to be competitive in this sort of company,” O’Brien added.

“Numerian has been a shade disappointing in his two runs this season, but he seems to be on his way back and has the form in the book to be competitive at this level.

“Snapraeterea hit the frame in a couple of Stakes races last season, but was a bit disappointing on his return to action at Leopardstown. He takes on his elders here and it is a stiff task on paper.”

The Lyons-trained Acanella bids to follow up an impressive debut success over the course and distance in the Guineas Trial, with Paddy Twomey’s Fantasy Lady and Dermot Weld’s Curragh scorer Shandra among her rivals.

Mac Swiney on course for Derrinstown return

Jim Bolger’s firm belief that he has two star colts on his hands this season could be further advertised at Leopardstown on Sunday, with Mac Swiney set to carry his hopes in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

Stablemate Poetic Flare has already won the Qipco 2000 Guineas, and the County Carlow trainer has been keen to stress he finds it hard to split the pair – a statement with which jockey Kevin Manning concurred at Newmarket on Saturday.

Speaking after the Guineas, Manning – asked to compare Mac Swiney and Poetic Flare – said: “The two of them have been working well, and I rode the two of them on the grass in two separate bits of work three weeks ago and Jim asked the question and said if both turn up (at Newmarket) which would you ride – and I said ‘I don’t know’.”

A son of Bolger’s Derby winner New Approach, Mac Swiney took Group One honours when beating One Ruler in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster in October.

Chief among his potential opposition this weekend is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Bolshoi Ballet, winner of the Ballysax Stakes on his reappearance.

The Ballysax-Derrinstown route is one familiar to O’Brien with his Derby runners – Galileo winning both races on the way to glory in the premier Classic 20 years ago, while High Chaparral did likewise 12 months later.

Bolshoi Ballet winning the Ballysax Stakes under Ryan Moore
Bolshoi Ballet winning the Ballysax Stakes under Ryan Moore (PA)

O’Brien has also entered Derby favourite High Definition, although he is thought more likely to run at Lingfield on Saturday. Chester defector Sir Lamorak is another among the possibles, which total 15 at the entry stage.

There are also 15 in the Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial, including the Ger Lyons-trained Acanella.

The Juddmonte-owned Dansili filly looked potentially smart in beating Jessica Harrington’s Climate – who could reoppose – over this course and distance last month.

The other highlight on a top-class card is the Amethyst Stakes – which features the O’Brien-trained Lancaster House, among 11 entries.

Bolshoi Ballet second-favourite for Derby after authoritative Ballysax success

Bolshoi Ballet enhanced his Classic claims as he provided trainer Aidan O’Brien with an 11th victory in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.

The Ballydoyle handler saddled subsequent Epsom heroes Galileo and High Chaparral to land successive runnings of the Derby trial in 2001 and 2002, while four-time Gold Cup winner Yeats also features on the roll of honour.

O’Brien was doubly represented in this year’s renewal, with Dundalk maiden winner Lough Derg joined by stablemate Bolshoi Ballet – a winner at the track in the autumn before finishing fifth at Group One level in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

Aidan O’Brien was thrilled with the performance of Bolshoi Ballet
Aidan O’Brien was thrilled with the performance of Bolshoi Ballet (PA)

Ryan Moore kept things simple aboard the 2-1 favourite, allowing him to track the pacesetting Catena Zapata for much of the 10-furlong journey before taking over the lead two furlongs from home.

Lough Derg found a gap on the fence and briefly looked a threat, but Bolshoi Ballet hit the line strongly to score by just over two lengths. Lough Derg was run out of the places late on by Flying Visit and Taipan.

Coral make Bolshoi Ballet their 12-1 second-favourite for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom, with stable companion High Definition heading the market at 7-2.

O’Brien said: “You’d be delighted with him as he only ran on soft ground (last season) and will have learned a lot today.

“He’ll probably come back here for the Derrinstown if all goes well with him. He’s straightforward and, while you’re never sure, he should get a mile and a half. He goes to the line well.

Derby favourite High Definition is reported to be in good form
Derby favourite High Definition is reported to be in good form (PA)

“High Definition will go for one of the Derby trials. We didn’t want to give him two runs before the Derby, but we thought this horse would be able for two.

“He’s in full work and we’re very happy with him.”

O’Brien also had news on the Classic front of Santa Barbara, who has been all the rage for the Qipco 1000 Guineas in recent weeks after her trainer gave her a glowing report in a stable tour.

He said: “Santa Barbara is working very well. She’s going through her work in second gear with all the fillies.

“We were going to come here and then we said we’d go straight for the Guineas.

“It’s a big ask for a filly only after having one easy run in a maiden to go to the Guineas. She looks exceptional in her work, but she’ll be very green going to a Guineas. She’ll learn a lot either ways.”

Looking to the Newmarket meeting that starts on Tuesday, O’Brien added: “We might run Khartoum in the Craven on Thursday.”