Toast of New York: Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara land lucrative Belmont double for Aidan O’Brien

Horse Racing Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Ballet (Ryan Moore) completes G1 double for Aidan O’Brien in Belmont Derby Invitational. Photo: NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Nicholas Godfrey

USA: Aidan O’Brien completed a notable G1 double in New York on Saturday when Ryan Moore partnered Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara to victory in a pair of lucrative events at Belmont Park.

Yet while both horses were short-priced favourites against seemingly overmatched rivals, it was no straightforward exercise for either of this much-hyped pair as they claimed long-awaited G1 successes.

Looks like hard work for Bolshoi Ballet

Belmont Park: Belmont Derby Invitational G1 $1m, 1m2f, turf, 3yo
Bolshoi Ballet (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore)

On the day the death of his legendary sire Galileo was announced, Bolshoi Ballet became the stallion’s 92nd individual G1 winner.

Reportedly struck into when disappointing as Derby favourite at Epsom, the colt was sent off a nickel better than even-money to break his G1 duck in this $1m event, the first leg of the NYRA ‘Turf Triple’.

However, the only place his supporters could feel truly comfortable was in the final 100 yards as he outstayed his rivals in what was no better than a labour-intensive effort. 

Rousted at the break just to keep tabs, Bolshoi Ballet was shuffled back mid-race and kept Moore busy throughout with an all-out drive on the far turn.

After challenging four wide, he got the upper hand in the closing stages to win by a length and a quarter from Derby Italiano winner Tokyo Gold, who finished even more strongly from the rear.

Shall we talk about it?

Ryan Moore: “It felt like they were going very slow. This horse, we know he gets the 10 very well. It was a messy race and he won comfortably without being able to show how good he is. We’re happy with him. He’s the most beautiful horse you’ll see. He’s a real athlete. He’s a class horse. With a furlong to run, you could see he was just waiting; having a look and his ears were going. He’s still getting used to knowing what he has to do. We think there’s more to come. Potentially, I suppose he could be a Breeders’ Cup Turf horse.”

TJ Comerford (Aidan O’Brien’s travelling assistant): “The ground was probably a little bit slow for him, because he likes quick ground. In fairness to him, his class pulled it out at the end of the day, and you have to be happy with it.”

Santa Barbara’s turn of foot gets her out of trouble

Belmont Park: Belmont Oaks Invitational G1 $700,000 1m2f, turf, 3yo fillies
Santa Barbara (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore)

Santa Barbara was certainly more impressive than her stablemate but she must also have given the Ballydoyle team a spot of anxiety as seemed trapped full of running behind horses in the stretch.

Moore switched out for a run between horses about a furlong out and the 23-20 favourite did not need to be asked twice, producing a fine turn of foot to overwhelm her rivals. 

The daughter of Camelot – a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup winners Iridessa and Order Of Australia – won cosily in the end, value for more than the half-length winning margin over front-running Con Lima, who had strolled around the oval at a tepid pace.

Horse Racing Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara (Ryan Moore) wins Belmont Oaks Invitational. Photo: NYRA/Susie Raisher

Shall we talk about it?

Ryan Moore: “It was quite a steadily run race. She’s got class, she’s got ability. She won without me moving a muscle but we’re lucky we got out in time. I was hoping Nazuna would drop away a bit sooner. I didn’t want to waste too much petrol by going around her. I had to go out one switch and I didn’t want to, but I had to. She’s done it very easily. I’m very happy with her.”

TJ Comerford (Aidan O’Brien’s travelling assistant): “She’s been used to faster ground, so it probably took her a while to pick things up today on that slow ground. That was a good performance for her. Ryan knows her better than anyone and he knew that she had plenty of speed, so it was never a problem. She showed plenty of turn of foot in her other Group 1 starts in the Oaks and at the Curragh, she got beat by a good older filly [Thundering Nights]. She’s getting better as she gets on. Anytime you win a Group 1 is great.”

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