Bolshoi Ballet was cut to single figures in the ante-post market for the Epsom Derby after an impressive return to action in the Group 3 PW McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.
Winner of a maiden on the second of his three runs as a juvenile, all of which were in October, he made quite an impression then and enhanced it with this display. A brother to Southern France, who was placed in an English and Irish St Leger, Ryan Moore was keen to get a lead aboard Aidan O’Brien’s runner as Catena Zapata set a modest gallop.
Ridden to lead early in the straight, he asserted late on to win with a greater degree of authority than the winning margin of two and a quarter lengths might suggest. The vastly experienced Flying Visit denied the once-raced Taipan the runner-up spot.
“You’d be delighted with him as he only ran on soft ground and will have learned a lot today,” said O’Brien. “He’ll probably come back here for the Derrinstown, if all goes well with him. He’s straightforward and, while you’re never sure, he should get a mile and a half. He goes to the line well.”
O’Brien and Moore later doubled up with Sir Lamorak, a recent Dundalk maiden winner who made light of an opening mark of 85 when coming from a long way off the pace to run away with the Leopardstown Handicap.
Big-priced winners are anything but a rarity these days in Ireland and Keeper Of Time became another when winning the Group 3 Ballylinch Stud “Priory Belle” 1000 Guineas Trial at odds of 80-1. Ridden by Ronan Whelan and having her second run for Johnny Feane, she moved out to make a challenge in the straight, led a furlong out, and held the big late run of the exciting Mehnah, by a head.
Poetic Flare enhanced his Classic credentials with a winning return in the Group 3 Ballylinch Stud “Red Rocks” 2000 Guineas Trial.
Prominent throughout under Kevin Manning, Jim Bolger’s colt took over from Snapraeterea early in the straight and, after quickly establishing a clear advantage, only had to be kept up to his work in front to win cosily from Ace Aussie.
A three-parts brother to the stable’s three-time listed winner Glamorous Approach, he is entered at Newmarket, for the first colts’ classic, for which he is a 20-1 chance.
“He’s a very uncomplicated horse, you can do what you want on him, he’s very switched off,” said Manning. “He goes up through the gears nicely, and in the last 200 yards he’s only doing what I’m asking him to do. I think he’ll benefit when he steps up another furlong (to a mile).”
Una Manning, representing the winning trainer, added: “He’s in both Guineas, along with Mac Swiney. We haven’t decided yet whether he’ll go to Newmarket or the Curragh, but the two of them won’t run in the same race.”
Bolshoi Ballet’s maiden form of 2020 earlier received a boost when O’Reilly took the Leopardstown maiden for Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley.
In a ding-dong battle with HMS Seahorse, O’Reilly asserted deep inside the final furlong to get off the mark at the second time of asking.
Harrington and Foley added to their tally with Real Appeal, who quickened nicely to take the Leopardstown Members’ Handicap.
Ronan Whelan, earlier successful on Keeper Of Time, added a second when getting the Andy Oliver-trained Dream Tale up in the closing stages of the first division of the GAIN The Advantage Series Handicap. The turf debutant had shown promise on the all-weather and carried top weight to victory.
In the second division, Tony Martin’s lightly raced seven-year-old Akhlaaq, ridden by Robbie Colgan, secured a long overdue second career victory, almost five years after his winning debut at Salisbury.