Irish raiders search for yet more Epsom glory


O'Brien has a number of strong contenders as he targets more success on the Downs

Thursday, June 03, 2021
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Eyes on the prize: Bolshoi Ballet is Ballydoyle's one hope in the Derby


Ireland have enjoyed great success at the Epsom Derby Festival in the past and that could well continue this year, writes Bradley West.

The two-day spectacular at Epsom Downs Racecourse features three high-class Grade 1 races with the Coronation Cup, Oaks and, the main event, the Derby itself.

Aidan O’Brien has been the king of the £1,125,000 showcase race, which makes up part of the British Champions Series, with eight victories.

His search for more records with a ninth win relies on just one contender though, with High Definition, Kyprios, Sir Lamorak, The Mediterranean and Van Gogh all missing the race.

He still has one raider though, in the form of the favourite Bolshoi Ballet – even if it is the first time since 2004 that the Master of Ballydoyle has only had one runner in the race.

The son of Galileo impressively won the Derrinstown Derby Trial in last month

“We're happy with him. Everything has gone very smooth,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.

“He's a very uncomplicated horse, you can ride him anywhere in the race. He’s always been very straight-forward and well-balanced.”

Ed Dunlop’s John Leeper represents the main home charge, while Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney and Joseph O’Brien’s Southern Lights are the other two raiders taking part.

Mac Swiney, the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, came out on the losing end of a battle with Bolshoi Ballet earlier this season but Bolger is confident he can rise to the occasion.

“He's fresh and perky and didn't have to do any work in between the Guineas and the Derby,” Bolger said.

“He's had an easy time for a couple of weeks. Hopefully he'll be on top of his game by the time we get to the Derby.”

Friday’s main attraction is the Oaks, and it’s Ballydoyle which again has the favourite.

O’Brien has won this race in four of the past six runnings and the chatter from the yard in recent months has been of how impressive favourite Santa Barbara is.

Despite coming just fourth in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, her trainer is confident she will show more at Epsom.

“She did very well in Newmarket for a filly only having her second run. She was always very special in her work,” O’Brien said.

“She ran a big race and showed what she can do. 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.

“The Guineas is the Guineas, but you would imagine normal, natural improvement will come. She hasn’t shown us anything in her work to suggest otherwise.”

O’Brien has four other runners, including the impressive Snowfall, while the Roger Varian-trained duo of Zeyaadah and Tenoa will also be in the mix for the home team.

The other Grade 1 contest of the festival is the Coronation Cup with Al Aasy the favourite.

The William Haggas charge has been impressive at Grade 3 level but now steps up into elite company for the first time.

Japan and Mogul make up the Irish contingent for O’Brien, who could win a hat-trick of top prizes at Epsom.

He's [Bolshoi Ballet] a very uncomplicated horse, you can ride him anywhere in the race. He’s always been very straight-forward and well-balanced.

- Aidan O'Brien

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