Bolshoi Ballet in action (Image: PA)
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BOLSHOI BALLET should make them dance to his tune to give trainer Aidan O’Brien a record ninth victory in the Cazoo Derby (4.30).
O’Brien, already the most prolific trainer in the premier Classic’s history with eight successes, relies on just one colt as he seeks a hat-trick of Derby triumphs – and an incredible seventh win from the past 10 runnings.
But fielding multiple challengers would merely be an extravagance when Bolshoi Ballet has all the credentials needed to do the job by himself.
O’Brien sent the son of Galileo from Ballydoyle to Newmarket last October for his debut, and Bolshoi Ballet show abundant promise for the future with a third to Mystical Dawn.
My selection duly built on that first run with a four-length supremacy at Leopardstown 13 days later before his sights were raised to Group 1 level for the Criterium de Saint-Cloud a further eight days on.
In a race run on heavy ground, Bolshoi Ballet returned fifth of the seven runners behind Gear Up, a performance that relieved him of any burden of expectation through the winter.
Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore
This spring, however, Ryan Moore’s mount has captured two established Derby trials in convincing fashion – and as a result will start a hot favourite this afternoon.
First up was the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes over a mile and a quarter at Leopardstown in mid-April, in which Bolshoi Ballet proved two and a quarter lengths too strong for Flying Visit.
But it was his humbling of stablemate Lough Derg in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, also a Group 3 over the same course and distance, that really established the bay as the stand-out candidate for Epsom.
Given the office by Moore at the top of the home straight, Bolshoi Ballet settled matters in strides, passing the post six lengths to the good of the runner-up, with the re-opposing Mac Swiney in fourth and Southern Lights back in sixth.
The additional two furlongs here should pose no problems to a full-brother to O’Brien’s 2018 St Leger third Southern France, who is expected to follow the path to Derby glory taken by his sire in 2001 and High Chaparral 12 months later.
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Third Realm has "outstanding attitude" for Epsom's Cazoo Derby says Roger Varian
Of Bolshoi Ballet’s rivals, Mac Swiney is feared most.
Jim Bolger reported last season’s Vertem Futurity Trophy hero to have produced a nasal discharge for a week after his below-par showing at Leopardstown.
And Mac Swiney left that form behind with a gutsy Irish 2,000 Guineas score a fortnight ago, and promises to be at least as good at middle distances.
The line-up for greatest race of them all inevitably attracts some rapidly improving three-year-olds, and Hurricane Lane, John Leeper and Mohaafeth are colts of considerable promise.
At bigger odds, rank outsider Mojo Star is out of his depth, while 2,000 Guineas sixth One Ruler may find a mile and a half stretches his stamina to stretching point.
Frankie Dettori riding Snowfall to win the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom on Friday
Chester Vase victor Youth Spirit needs more, and the contender who appeals most from an each-way perspective is Third Realm.
The Roger Varian trainee had plenty up his sleeve when accounting for Adayar by a length and a quarter in the Listed Derby Trial at Lingfield Park, and still has plenty more to offer.
Newsboy's runner guide for the Derby
Runner-up in Group 3 Classic Trial at Sandown Park before 1¼l 2nd to Third Realm, in Listed Derby Trial at Lingfield Park, and hard to see him turning that around.
Has followed the path of Galileo and High Chaparral with wins in Group 3 Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown, latter by 6l, and hard to beat.
Heavy-ground winner of Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Bolshoi Ballet 5th) but only 5th to Hurricane Lane in Group 2 Dante Stakes at York on return, so work to do.
Only unbeaten runner in the field found willingly for pressure to complete a hat-trick with ¾l margin in Dante Stakes last time and hard to know where his ceiling is.
John Leeper on the gallops at Epsom
Son of Oaks heroine Snow Fairy has come a long way in a short time, landing Listed Fairway Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago, and hasn’t stopped improving yet.
Landed Doncaster’s Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy at two and, having bounced back from Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial flop to land Irish 2,000 Guineas, a definite player up in trip.
Has gone from strength to strength this season and hardly came out of second gear for 5l supremacy in Listed Newmarket Stakes last month, but this is much tougher.
Second placings in a novice event and maiden at Newbury leave him a world away from what is needed to win the Derby, so will do well to avoid the wooden spoon.
Personal best when ¾l 2nd to in Vertem Futurity Trophy on final start at two and, while not discredited when 6th in 2,000 Guineas, might struggle to last home here.
Leopardstown maiden winner on second start at two beat one home when 6th in Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on return, so needs a big step forward to get involved here.
Third Realm is an each-way price for the Cazoo Derby
Winner of Nottingham maiden in April took another step forward for 1¼l success in Lingfield Derby Trial and likelihood of further progress means a podium finish isn’t out of the question.
Form of Group 3 Chester Vase victory, by 1¾l from Sandhurst, needs improving on to get involved, but same connections combined with 50-1 runner-up Khalifa Sat 12 months ago.
Tips for Epsom and the rest of Saturday's cards
3.10 CENTURY DREAM (NAP)
3.45 ONLY SPOOFING
4.30 BOLSHOI BALLET (NB)
5.15 SOTO SIZZLER
1.55 GORGEOUS STAR
2.30 RODRIGO DIAZ
3.05 REVEREND HUBERT
3.40 MAIDEN CASTLE
4.15 FEDERAL AGENT
4.50 AIR TO AIR
3.15 PERCY WILLIS
3.50 BALLYEGAN HERO
4.45 SHERIF GARRETT
5.20 ASTUTE BOY
5.55 KING GOLAN
1.40 RED WARNING
3.25 GLEN AGAIN
4.00 ZAFFY’S PRIDE
5.30 MY GIRL MAGGIE
1.45 GOLDEN TAIPAN
2.20 MR MAFIA
2.55 SHAREEF STAR
5.00 PAPA TANGO CHARLY
5.35 MY LADY GREY
7.30 GLAMOROUS CRESCENT
8.30 WALTZING QUEEN
9.00 TRIPLE NICKLE
7.45 ANGEL ON HIGH
8.15 MAHANAKHON POWER
8.45 TYNECASTLE PARK