Bolshoi Ballet Wins American Debut in Belmont Derby

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Bolshoi Ballet rolled home a winner in the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

There were a multitude of heartfelt tributes that poured out around the globe July 10 after the passing of Coolmore's champion stallion Galileo at the age of 23.

Few, though, were as profound as the one offered by one of his sons at Belmont Park.

In a slightly more than two-minute-long testament to the greatness Galileo passed along to his progeny, Bolshoi Ballet added another chapter to his sire's legacy by shipping in from Europe and capturing the $1 million Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes for the Coolmore team of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith and Westerberg and legendary European trainer Aidan O'Brien.

"It's a tough day for everyone," said Coolmore's M.V. Magnier through a choked voice about the 12-time champion sire. "That horse has been incredible to a lot of people who have been involved with him for the last 23 years. Sadly, it happens, but hopefully we have his replacement."

By virtue of his 1 1/4-length victory in the 1 1/4-mile opening leg of the New York Racing Association's Turf Triple for 3-year-olds under Ryan Moore, Bolshoi Ballet will go into the record books as the 92nd grade or group 1 winner sired by Galileo. Yet beyond that lofty statistical figure, Saturday's victory over group 2 winner Tokyo Gold validated all of the faith Coolmore and O'Brien had in the son of the Anabaa mare Alta Anna.

Prior to the Group 1 June 5 Cazoo Derby at Epsom Downs, Magnier was chagrined over comments by cynics who wondered out loud why a huge international outfit such as Coolmore would run only one 3-year-old in such a prestigious race.

"Plenty of people gave us a slagging for running only one horse in the Derby and then they also complain when we run a few," Magnier said.

That single entrant was Bolshoi Ballet, who filled O'Brien with the belief that one starter would be enough. A winner of group 3 stakes in his two previous starts, he was viewed as the horse to beat by both his connections and the betting public, which sent him off as the 1.35-to-1 favorite in the renowned European classic.

"Aidan had so much confidence in this horse going into the Derby," Magnier said.

Unfortunately, the combination of soft ground and a cut to his rear right hind leg combined to trip up Bolshoi Ballet and the Galileo colt finished seventh, beaten 17 lengths.

Five weeks later, a "good" turf course in New York and a return to top form underscored why O'Brien believed one was enough in both the Epsom and Belmont derbies.

"He proved today that he's really powerful. Ryan said he's a very good horse," Magnier said.

Moore kept Bolshoi Ballet in seventh early on, then moved four-wide into contention on the final turn. He surged past Cellist in the final furlong and drew clear for his fourth win in seven starts. The victory also handed Coolmore and O'Brien a second Belmont Derby win, following Deauville's score in 2016.

"He won comfortably without being able to show how good he is. We're happy with him. He's the most beautiful horse you'll see. He's a real athlete. He's a class horse," Moore said. "With a furlong to run, you could see he was just waiting; having a look and his ears were going. He's still getting used to knowing what he has to do. We think there's more to come. Potentially, I suppose he could be a (Grade 1 Longines) Breeders' Cup Turf horse."

Bred by Lynch-Bages and Rhinestone Bloodstock, Bolshoi Ballet is the sixth of seven foals by Alta Anna and is a full brother to group 2 winner Southern France. His dam also has a yearling filly by No Nay Never.

Bolshoi Ballet, in the navy blue silks, storms to the lead in the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The international theme of Saturday's Turf Triple was continued by the runner-up, Tokyo Gold, another shipper from Europe who is owned by Teruya Yoshida and trained by Satoshi Kobayashi, who won the Group 2 Derby Italiano Universita Campus Bio-Medico di Roma in his previous start.

Last in the field of nine after a half-mile in :51.34, he rallied strongly in the stretch to take second by a neck over Calumet Farm's Cellist, a homebred son of Big Blue Kitten trained by Rusty Arnold, who held on gamely for third after battling for the early lead.

"He ran really well. I wish I had a little better position in the first part of the race, but I was right behind the winner the whole way, so I (figured) I might as well stay there. He's pretty handy and when I asked, he ran. The other horse (Bolshoi Ballet) was just a little better than us," said John Velazquez, who rode Tokyo Gold.

Sent off as the even money favorite ($4.10), Bolshoi Ballet covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.42.

Bolshoi Ballet also completed a sweep of both Turf Triple races for O'Brien, Coolmore and Westerberg, who teamed to capture the $700,000 Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes for 3-year-old fillies earlier in the card with Santa Barbara.

"What they do (at NYRA) is fantastic. The way they looked after us was incredible," Magnier said. "The prize money is great. The ground is good. Everything is perfect. It's a good place to come to."

Not surprisingly, though both Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara will return to Ireland July 11, Magnier left the door open for Bolshoi Ballet to return to New York. He mentioned the $1 million Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes Aug. 7 at Saratoga Race Course or the Sept. 18 $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational Stakes, the final two legs of the Turf Triple as options for the newly minted grade 1 winner.

He also listed the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as a possibility, which is certainly what you would expect for a son of the late, great Galileo.

2021 Belmont Derby Invitational S.
July 10th, 2021

2 Bolshoi Ballet (IRE)
7 Tokyo Gold (FR)
8 Cellist
5 Du Jour
4 Sainthood
1 Palazzi
  • Owner / John C. Oxley
  • Breeder / HnR Nothhaft Horseracing LLC & Pioneerof the Nile Syndicate
6 Hard Love
3 Safe Conduct
9 Hidden Enemy (IRE)

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