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'Straightforward and uncomplicated' - will Bolshoi Ballet dance to Classic win?

Bolshoi Ballet: Aidan O'Brien's only runner and the one they all have to beat
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4.30 Epsom
Cazoo Derby (Group 1) | 1m4f | 3yo | ITV/RTV

Ask anybody who has anything to do with Bolshoi Ballet and they will all say the same thing. They might choose different ways of defining his level of ability but they use the same two words to describe his demeanour – straightforward and uncomplicated.

Aidan O'Brien has said it umpteen times; Ryan Moore has said it too, and Seamie Heffernan said it about him only last Sunday.

Of all the things you need to be at Epsom, straightforward and uncomplicated are as important as any so perhaps that is why, for the first time since Galileo won the race in 2001, Bolshoi Ballet will be the sole representative from Ballydoyle in the Derby. You can set your watch by him. You know what you are going to get, no nasty surprises. 

Stamina should not be an issue for the son of Galileo either, given he is a full brother to the smart stayer Southern France, and following his runaway Derrinstown win, O'Brien said this about him: "He is very uncomplicated, quickens, relaxes. We always loved him."

Galileo and High Chaparral won the Ballysax and the Derrinstown on their way to Derby glory so Bolshoi Ballet is trying to follow in some hallowed footsteps. There is big pressure on his broad shoulders, but there is no colt more capable of coping with that pressure if you are to believe everything you hear. 

O'Brien, who is trying to match Lester Piggott by winning the world's most famous Flat race for a ninth time, reports everything to have gone smoothly in the lead-up to the Derby and issued an upbeat bulletin 24 hours before the race. 

The trainer, bidding to win his third Derby on the trot, said on Friday: "Everything is good with Bolshoi and he was in good shape this morning. We were very happy with his last bit of work, the two trials at Leopardstown went well and everything has gone smoothly with him since the Derrinstown. He's just a very straightforward and uncomplicated colt and we're looking forward to the race."

The best storyline? That has to be John Leeper

As stories go, John Leeper would surely be the bestseller.

Named after the legendary John Dunlop – the father of trainer Ed, ridden by Mr Box Office himself in Frankie Dettori, and the product of the best colt of the modern era and a mare who did the Oaks-Irish Oaks double and landed the Irish Champion Stakes as well. Frankel and Snow Fairy were scintillating when in full stride and, who knows, maybe their son might be.

It would be far-fetched to think John Leeper can achieve anything close to what his father or mother did, but his all-weather win on the Tapeta at Newcastle was extremely easy on the eye and to do what he did in a Listed race at Newmarket last time means he must be very good indeed.

Despite being keen and striking the front fully three furlongs from home, he saw it out in determined fashion to beat a horse now rated 102. His class got him through, but will his class be enough to get him through his toughest test to date?

Dunlop admits there is a lot we don't know about John Leeper, but is adamant the future is bright.

He said: "He's a decent-ground animal but is very lightly raced. There are enough unknowns including trip, level of ability and whether he'll handle the track.

"Frankie has ridden him the last two mornings. He rode him two canters on Thursday and one very easy one this morning and he's very happy with him. We'll go there and see how we go.

"There's great excitement about the horse and he's very much one for the future, we hope. This is only the fourth start of his career, but with him being named after my father, the general and racing public have shown great interest in him."

Mac Swiney seeking to follow in footsteps of New Approach for Bolger

After Mac Swiney won his maiden at the Curragh in July 2020, Jim Bolger's daughter Una Manning told the waiting press huddle at the Curragh that this was "the boss's Derby horse".

That was some statement to make so far out, but Bolger was right on the money as usual. This was indeed his Derby horse and he has managed to pick up a pair of Group 1s along the way, including a Classic.

Mac Swiney's all-the-way win in the Irish 2,000 Guineas is the best piece of form on offer and his rating of 119 is 2lb above favourite Bolshoi Ballet.

Friday's rain would have been a blessing to Bolger with all four of Mac Swiney's wins coming on yielding ground or softer so the more the weather deteriorates, the more his chance improves. 

It is 13 years since Mac Swiney's sire New Approach won the Derby for Bolger. It could be lucky for one legendary Coolcullen trainer and his evergreen 54-year-old son-in-law Kevin Manning.

Occasion won't get to unbeaten Hurricane Lane, says Appleby

The only flawless CV is held by Hurricane Lane. The Frankel colt is three from three and the only one preserving an unbeaten record.

The determined Dante victor certainly knows how to win and the way he ground out victory at York suggests he possesses the right sort of tools should the Derby develop into a war of attrition. He's won on heavy ground, too.

Charlie Appleby, who trained Masar to win the 2018 running and is triple-handed in the race three years later, said: "There is a lot of depth to this year's Derby, and I'm looking to all our three to improve on what they have shown on the racecourse this season.

"Hurricane Lane goes to Epsom unbeaten in three starts. He finished off strongly in the Dante, and the step up to 1m4f should not worry him.

"He has done well since York, and one of his great attributes is that he is laid-back. Sometimes the occasion can get to them on Derby Day, but I don't think it will prove any trouble to him."

One Ruler began the season with a big reputation but, despite only appearing once when sixth in the 2,000 Guineas, his stock seems to have plummeted.

Appleby said: "One Ruler had a very good two-year-old profile, and we were not disappointed when he finished sixth in the 2,000 Guineas. James Doyle got off him and said he thought he would appreciate the step up in trip and that the ground was a bit quick for him at Newmarket. We took him to Epsom for a look around and a canter down the hill and around Tattenham Corner last month. I think that will be beneficial and I'm confident he will be one of the last to come off the bridle."

On his the Adam Kirby-ridden Adayar, he added: "He gained valuable experience in the two trials, particularly at Lingfield where he fought on well. He will see out the trip really well. He is lightly raced and, with maturity, will be a nice type."

What they say

Richard Ryan, racing manager for Teme Valley, owners of Gear Up
The Derby has been the plan ever since he passed the post in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud. He was bought with this race in mind and thankfully of the selection that Mark [Johnston] has had that have been staying types, he's clearly the best of them. Epsom has always been the intention. He's a very simple horse to read in that he's a good doer, he trains well and he's sound. He has no issues with any type of going either. The ground was heavy at Saint-Cloud, it was a very good race and is being a little bit underplayed because of the conditions. Staying is probably his forte and a greater test of stamina than the Dante is what he needs. It was always clear he would come forward for that run. He's a rather large price, but I think he'll outrun those odds.

Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Southern Lights
He was a little bit unlucky meeting traffic the last day at Leopardstown, but he's trained well since that race. I know the Derby is always a good race and all the top horses are in there, but we're hoping he can run a big one.

Roger Varian, trainer of Third Realm 
Third Realm is uncomplicated and he is a horse that ought to suit Epsom or at least not be inconvenienced by it. You can ride him anywhere, he relaxes and is well balanced. I'm happy with the horse which is the main thing and we can't do anything about the draw or ground. It was a good performance at Lingfield and he did it well. The form stacks up as the runner-up is going for the Derby so they still rate that horse. In the Derby you need to see out the mile and a half strongly and he possesses all the credentials you need.


Read more Epsom previews . . .

Big-race analysis: what does Coolmore's one-dart policy say about this year's Derby (Members' Club)

Kieren Fallon on how to ride the Derby – and his idea of the winner (Members' Club)

3.45 Epsom: stopwatches at the ready! Tom Collins casts his expert eye over the Epsom Dash

2.35 Epsom: 'She's been flying at home' – Meade hoping Statement bounces back from the Guineas


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This is only the start of his career but with him being named after my father, the general and racing public have shown great interest in him
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