Belmont Derby (G1) — Race 9 (5:12 p.m. ET)
It’s virtually unprecedented for a beaten favorite in the Epsom Derby (G1) to subsequently head to America to make immediate amends, but Bolshoi Ballet will be doing just that Saturday in the $1 million Belmont Derby (G1) over 1 1/4 miles for Ballydoyle and trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Strongly favored to win the historic Derby at Epsom at odds of 11-8 on June 5, Bolshoi Ballet was in great striking position for a good portion of the race, but faded badly to seventh down the long straight. It was later discovered that the Galileo colt had been struck by a rival and came out of the race with a gash on his right hind leg.
Bolshoi Ballet was strongly backed off dominating scores in both the Ballysax (G3) and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (G3).
“He’s coming here now trying to pick up the pieces where he left off at Leopardstown,” O’Brien’s traveling assistant, T.J. Comerford, said. “He won both the Ballysax and the Derrinstown well. It didn’t work out that great at Epsom, but I’m sure he’s still on the right path to picking it up from there. He’s a good mover and he’s just a good-looking horse himself.
“Once he has good-to-firm ground, that makes a difference. I suppose the race wasn’t ideal that day at Epsom. The ground may have gone against him.”
Also invading from overseas is Tokyo Gold, a four-length winner of the Italian Derby (G2) in late May, though that race hasn’t been as influential of late as it once was.
The domestic contingent is led by Du Jour, who prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths last out in the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard. The Temple City colt was subsequently transferred to trainer Bill Mott following Bob Baffert’s suspension from racing at NYRA tracks.
Hard Love has won three of four starts and will deserve a long look in the race. Following a season-opening win in the Woodhaven S. at Aqueduct in April, the Kitten’s Joy colt prepped by edging older rivals in a second-level allowance going 1 1/8 miles.
“I was proud of how he handled himself and was able to get himself into a bit of a dog fight that last eighth of a mile against a seemingly nice older horse,” trainer Jonathan Thomas said. “Subsequently, he’s come out of it well and trained nicely.”
Sainthood meant to make his turf debut in the May 29 Pennine Ridge (G3), but wound up winning the event by a length over a sloppy main track when weather conditions forced a transfer in surface.
“His works on the turf indicate that he likes it, and his pedigree certainly suggests that he will like it,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of the Mshawish colt. “He ran well on the synthetic and everything we’ve seen indicates he’ll handle it well.”
Dual turf winner Safe Conduct ran a below-par fourth in the Pennine Ridge, while Cellist enters after a victory in the Audubon S. at Churchill Downs over Palazzi and Hidden Enemy.