Fernando Vichi underlined Derby favourite Bolshoi Ballet’s Epsom credentials as he ground out victory in the Listed Nijinsky Stakes at Leopardstown.
Donnacha O’Brien’s winner had finished an aggregate of 12 lengths behind his father Aidan’s Bolshoi Ballet in his two previous races this season.
As O’Brien senior relies on the latter as his sole Derby contender on Saturday, Fernando Vichi advertised the form of his back-to-back Group Three Leopardstown victories in the Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.
Gavin Ryan had the 5-1 winner in front after a furlong as he moved up to a mile and a half for the first time and, after remaining prominent throughout, kicked clear into the straight.
O’Brien’s favourite The Mediterranean came under pressure turning in – and although staying on to good effect in the closing stages, he could get no closer than a three-quarter-length second at the line. Joseph O’Brien’s Ruling completed the family’s clean sweep, the same distance again back in third.
Fernando Vichi’s victory fuelled his own Classic aspirations, with this month’s Irish Derby likely to be next and then a move further up in trip possibly on his longer-term agenda.
Donnacha O’Brien said: “He had a good run the last day – and we always knew he was going to be a mile-and-a-half horse, at least.
“Gavin gave him a lovely ride today. He got a nice, easy lead – but he quickened up well.
“He put lengths on them and then got a little bit lazy in the last half-furlong. I thought it was a good performance.
“I think he’s earned a shot at the Irish Derby now – that looks like the obvious target.
“He’s a horse that stays very well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we step him up again after that.”
Asked if the St Leger could therefore come into the equation later in the season, the winning trainer said: “I think so. There is a lot of stamina in his pedigree – and he has a nice, lazy, relaxed way of going.
“I see no reason why he shouldn’t be (a Leger horse).
“He quickened up very well today, so he deserves a shot at a big one over a mile and a half before we start thinking that way.”