Wednesday 2 June 2021 9:05 am

Cazoo Derby Festival: Bolshoi Ballet and High Definition head Ballydoyle challenge

Bill Esdaile is City A.M. racing editor and managing director of Square in the Air.

Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien has outlined his plans for the 2021 Cazoo Derby Festival at Epsom Downs.

Already the most successful trainer of all time in The Cazoo Derby with eight victories, the master of Ballydoyle confirmed that the premier Classic, which he described as “the most important race of all” remained the plan for leading contenders Bolshoi Ballet and High Definition.

He said on the former: “This has been Bolshoi’s target all the way. It (the colt’s last piece of work) showed us that he is happy and well. The plan was always to travel him last year so we wouldn’t have to travel him in the spring/early summer this year and that went well. The plan was to do the two trials in Ireland, both at Leopardstown. Both of those went well. He came out of Leopardstown well last time and everything has been smooth since. It is a new track to what he has he already raced on. 

“Leopardstown is a nice place – it is a little left, but not like the big extreme of Epsom. But you have to quicken, go left and down the hill and up the hill and he looked good going that way. In Saint-Cloud last year (when fifth in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud) it was a different track as well and he seemed happy enough there.”

O’Brien also gave the latest on High Definition, who was last seen finishing third in the Dante Stakes at York: “High Definition is the same (as Bolshoi in that it’s been his target all the way) – he didn’t have a clear passage to York. We were delighted to get the run into him as it looked like we weren’t going to get the run into him the week before. If that had have happened it would have proved a mountain to Epsom straight away. 

“By running him it gave him an option of going to Epsom. He hasn’t had as much time from York to The Derby as Bolshoi Ballet would have had but he seems in good form. The little thing he got in his blood, we don’t know where it came from or where it went but it was there for four or five days. We will be a little bit on tenterhooks tomorrow when he is blooded in the morning to see which way that comes back. We’ve been happy with him since York in everything he has been doing.

“I think he is a horse with loads of class. His only run this year was at York when it wasn’t a strongly run mile and a quarter. You very rarely get a Derby when it is not a strong even pace. He does make up ground very quickly on horses even though you might see the jockey starting to move on him.”

High Definition (purple silks) was last seen finishing third in the Dante at York.

The Ballydoyle handler also has a strong hand in this year’s Cazoo Oaks and he gave an update on those starting with Divinely.

“Divinely, we always liked her a lot and she is a sister to Found (winner of 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf and 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe). She won a Group Three last year and had one run at Lingfield this year. I remember Ryan said after he was delighted with her. They went very slow and it didn’t suit her but he was happy with her run. Her work has been very nice since and her figures from her work have been coming out very high so that is usually a very good sign.”

O’Brien also gave a positive update on Santa Barbara, the ante-post favourite for the race:

“She is very well. This was always pencilled in to be her second run this year. Everything has gone well since. We were delighted with her run in the Guineas. It was a big ask for her and for us she passed the test we put in front of her with flying colours and for us to ask her to do anymore wouldn’t have been right. 

“We were delighted she ran a big race and showed us what she can do. The ground was quick that day and it makes it a little bit more tricky for a horse with not a lot of experience at Newmarket because they race hard into that dip and they can get found out, but we were delighted with the way she travelled and she showed us the class she showed us at home. 

“We were always going to go into the Oaks not knowing whether she would get a mile and a half or not but I suppose we will find that out. She is by Camelot which is a big help and we know that she has a lot of class. 

“She has only had the two runs which is not a lot going into the Oaks but we are excited and looking forward into seeing her run. We’ve been very happy with her since (Newmarket) and everything has gone very smoothly and very well. The Guineas is the Guineas but you would imagine natural improvement to come and she hasn’t shown us anything in her work to suggest otherwise.”

Another interesting contender for the fillies Classic looks to be Snowfall, who comes into the race on the back of a commanding victory in the Musidora Stakes at York on her first start of 2021.

“She is good. We always thought the world of her last year and that is probably why we campaigned her in such good races. She might have been a little bit weak (last year) but she is bred to be a classy filly, and bred like a filly that could get the trip. 

“We were delighted with her at York. She has come out of York very well. We think maybe that going up in trip on better ground, and her having another year under her belt to get stronger has all come together. She has always worked like a filly that had loads of class but just didn’t get it together last year. She wintered very well and Ryan (Moore) was delighted at York.”

Snowfall (right) was a taking winner of the Musidora Stakes at York last time.

Finally, in the third Group 1 of the Cazoo Derby Festival, the Coral Coronation Cup, O’Brien gave a positive update on Japan, with the five-year-old in good form ahead of his second start of the 2021 campaign.

“We were delighted with his first run at Chester. We started him short last year but we think it might have been too much pressure on him too early and his season fell to bits after that. We decided to start him off over longer this year and Ryan thought it would suit him going the trip and letting him get happy and relaxed and enjoy it. We think he has come forward for the run. 

“Mentally and physically we think he is in a very good place. We are very happy with him and looking forward to seeing him going again. He is a lovely horse and I think last year you can put a line through his runs. I remember when Ryan rode him in the Arc the year before he was over the moon with him. He has to keep progressing but we were delighted at Chester and hopefully he will go on progressing. He had a very good run in the Derby when Wayne (Lordan) rode him as a three year old so hopefully he will be happy going back there again.”

O’Brien also confirmed that Mogul, Japan’s year-younger full brother and a dual Group One winner last season, would be likely to join him in the race.