‘We’ve always thought he would stay’ – Aidan O’Brien on Bolshoi Ballet and his Derby and Oaks team

Record eight-time Derby-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien has given an update on his potential runners heading to Epsom for this year’s Cazoo Derby Festival on June 4-5, headed by Classic ante-post favourites Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara.

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It is 20 years since O’Brien first landed the premier Classic with Galileo, who has gone on sire a record five Derby winners. Speaking about the Derby’s importance, O’Brien said: “It’s 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.”

Cazoo Derby (Saturday June 5)

Bolshoi Ballet
b c Galileo – Alta Anna
Heads market following impressive wins in G3 Ballysax Stakes and G3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, both over 1m2f at Leopardstown

“I am very happy with him, everything has gone well so far. 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.
“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’ve always thought he would stay.”

High Definition
b c Galileo – Palace
Won both starts in 2020, including G2 Beresford Stakes. Finished staying-on third in G2 Dante at York on reappearance

“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 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.”

Sir Lamorak
b c Camelot – Simply A Star
Won both starts this year, most recently taking a Leopardstown handicap impressively in April

“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.”

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Sir Lucan
b c Camelot – Sparrow
Disappointed when eighth in Sandown Classic Trial before winning Listed race over 1m5f at Navan

“We ran him first time out this year at Sandown and he ran disappointingly. He came out of the race very well and won very nicely at Navan last time. For some reason all our horses who went to those trials, even the Guineas, they all just ran a little bit below par. Maybe it was a little bit early for them, but they all came out their races well and went forward from then.”

Van Gogh
b c American Pharoah – Imagine
Ended 2020 with victory in G1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud then eighth in 2000 Guineas at Newmarket; sired by US Triple Crown winner out of Oaks heroine

“We are very happy. He was very close to being fifth in the Guineas, he just got tired in the last 50 yards. Maybe our Newmarket horses were a couple of weeks behind where we thought they were. He came out of the race very well. He is a big, strong traveller. He had very good form at the back-end of last year and we have been very happy with him since as well.
“I don’t think he is a horse that needs soft ground. His form ended up on soft ground at the end of the year but that was just because of the weather.”

Cazoo Oaks (Friday June 4)

Divinely
b f Galileo – Red Evie
G3-winning two-year-old and close fourth on reappearance in Lingfield Oaks Trial

“We were very happy with her at Lingfield, probably happier than anybody else was. It was a very slowly run race and we were going to ride her very patiently. She ran a lovely race, so she is a filly we are looking forward to seeing as well.”

La Joconde
b f Frankel – Wadyhatta
Still a maiden, fourth in Cheshire Oaks

“Another filly we always thought is better than anyone has seen yet. She didn’t win last year; she hasn’t won yet. She ran a good race in the Cheshire Oaks, but we think she is a good bit better than that. We think there is more to come from her.”

Santa Barbara
b f Camelot – Senta’s Dream
Much-touted filly won only start of 2020 before close fourth as favourite in 1000 Guineas

“It was a big risk going to the 1000 Guineas on only her second run, but she ran very well. This was always pencilled in to be her next run.
“She came out of the 1000 Guineas well and everything has gone well with her since. She hasn’t been over that far before, but she is a Camelot filly and we are really looking forward to seeing her run. She was always very special in her work.
“Physically she has been very good – she didn’t lose much weight and mentally she has been very relaxed. They were the two big things you want to see. It is a risk going into a Classic on only your second run, from a very easy run on softish ground at the Curragh, to then go to Newmarket on fast ground. We were really delighted the way she came out of it.”

Snowfall
b f Deep Impact – Best In The World
Japanese-bred filly who left her juvenile form well behind when 14-1 Musidora winner

“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.”

Coronation Cup (Friday June 4)

Armory
4 bc Galileo – After
G2 winner as a two-year-old and scored at same level on reappearance when taking Huxley Stakes at Chester

“He probably won’t go to the Coronation Cup, he might go to the Tattersalls Gold Cup, or he might go to the Eclipse, or the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. He has come out of the race very well and he is a horse we are looking forward to this year.”

Broome
5 bh Australia – Sweepstake
Fourth in 2019 Derby and fourth in 2020 Coronation Cup (at Newmarket); won all three outings so far in 2021, most recently taking G2 Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh

“Broome is another who lost his way last year. We started him at a lower level this year – he has had three trials in Ireland and I have been very happy with him in all of them. He ran a very good race in the Derby. We always thought a mile and a half would suit him this year and he has only been a mile and quarter yet, but I am very happy with him.”

Japan
5 bh Galileo – Shastye
Third in Derby in 2019 before going on to win Juddmonte International; winless last year but scored on 2021 debut in G3 Ormonde at Chester

“Japan is very well. Last year we started him short in the Eclipse and he ran a very good race, but didn’t progress from it. This year we said we would start over longer and so that is why he went to the Ormonde Stakes. We were delighted with his run. 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
4 bf Galileo – Pikaboo
Dual Classic winner in 2020 with stunning victories in 1000 Guineas and Oaks; not seen out since landing Yorkshire Oaks

“Love is very well. She might go to the Tattersalls Gold Cup on the way or she might go straight there (to Epsom). She is doing everything right and is ready to start.”

Mogul
4 bc Galileo – Shastye
Year-younger brother to Japan who won Grand Prix de Paris and Hong Kong Vase in 2020; two appearances so far in 2021, most recently when third in Prix Ganay

 “Mogul has done a lot of travelling. He went to Dubai early and probably came forward for the run. Then he went to France and was third in the Prix Ganay and ran a very good race. We think he is progressing. He is another horse who ran well in the Derby.”

Serpentine
4 ch c Galileo – Remember When
Stunning all-the-way winner of 2020 Derby; fourth in two subsequent G1 appearances

 “Serpentine is working very well and he is also ready to start. The Tattersalls Gold Cup, the Coronation Cup, those races are all possible for him at the moment.”

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