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Trials lowdown – Who wins the 2021 Cazoo Derby?

25 May 2021

The Classic trials are like giant jigsaw pieces and now comes the fun part: putting them all together. Trying to identify the winner of the 2021 Cazoo Derby is no mean feat.

Bolshoi Ballet enters the picture as a key contender for the 2021 Cazoo Derby

As ever, the stepping stones to the Epsom Downs in the first week in June have seen bubbles burst and other candidates burst into contention. There are still 29 in contention after the latest forfeit stage this week for the 2021 Cazoo Derby, including three sons of Frankel who are prominent in the betting in Hurricane Lane, Mohaafeth and John Leeper.

The Irish Flag-Bearer

Bolshoi Ballet would not have been considered Aidan O’Brien’s No 1 Derby contender heading into this season, but he is now after successive Group 3 wins at Leopardstown in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes and then the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes.

Bolshoi Ballet wins the Derrinstown Derby Trial and is  aleading contender for the Epsom Derby

The Galileo colt was especially impressive in the latter contest, quickening clear from three furlongs out to win by six lengths. Mac Swiney (fourth), Taipan (fifth) and Southern Lights (sixth) were all left trailing that day. Bolshoi Ballet is the general 2/1 favourite after those victories. Mac Swiney, a Group 1 winner at two, was a disappointment that day but he scoped dirty after the race. He re-established his claims with victory in the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday, when he had Van Gogh back in third.

Galileo has sired four Derby winners and, before excelling as a stallion, himself gave O’Brien the first of his record eight Derby victories in 2001, having won the Ballysax and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial beforehand. High Chaparral followed the same path a year later, so Bolshoi Ballet would be reviving an established O’Brien blueprint if successful.

The Challengers

Since 2004, five Derby winners have contested the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dante Stakes at York. Last week’s renewal, won by the unbeaten Hurricane Lane, warrants close scrutiny. The Charlie Appleby-trained colt kept on dourly to beat Megallan, with High Definition, another O’Brien-trained son of Galileo, staying on to finish third. Gear Up, a Group 1 winner at two, was further back in fifth. 

High Definition had been an intended runner in the Novibet Derby Trial at Lingfield, five days earlier, but an unsatisfactory scope ruled him out. In his absence, Third Realm, trained by Roger Varian, was a decisive winner from Adayar, with Kyprios a well-beaten fourth. The winner will seek to emulate Anthony Van Dyck, who won at Lingfield before his Derby victory in 2019.

William Haggas gained his first and, to date, only Derby success with Shaamit, 25 years ago. A couple of potential challengers will line up for him. Alenquer showed a good attitude to scoop the bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown Park last month when he had Adayar (second), Yibir (third), Lone Eagle (fourth) and Etonian (seventh) behind. The vanquished are all engaged at Epsom, but Alenquer will need to be supplemented if he is to take part.

Haggas is also responsible for the exciting Mohaafeth, who advanced his claims with an easy win in Listed company at Newmarket this month. John Leeper, named after trainer Ed Dunlop’s late father, also won in the same grade at Headquarters last weekend to book his ticket.

Adding further depth is the Andrew Balding-trained Youth Spirit. He stayed on well to beat Sandhurst in the Group 3 Chester Vase and is owned by Ahmad Al Shaikh, whose Khalifa Sat finished runner-up in the Derby last year. Ruler Of The World (2013) and Wings Of Eagles (2017) ran in the Chester Vase en route to glory at Epsom.

Trials are, of course, only one part of the puzzle. However, they have certainly whet the appetite for what looks set to be a thrilling 2021 Cazoo Derby.