Bolshoi Ballet, trained by the maestro Aidan O’Brien, produced a classic display in the PW McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.
O’Brien has saddled subsequent Epsom heroes Galileo and High Chaparral to land successive runnings of the Derby trial in 2001 and 2002, while four-time Gold Cup winner Yeats also features on the roll of honour.
He was represented in this year’s renewal, by Dundalk maiden winner Lough Derg and stablemate Bolshoi Ballet, who was a winner at this track in the autumn before finishing fifth at Group One level in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
Jockey Ryan Moore, was straightforward on the 2-1 favourite, letting him to track the pace setting Catena Zapata for much of the 10-furlong journey before taking over the lead two furlongs from home.
Lough Derg was able to get through a gap on the rail and for a brief moment looked like a threat, but Bolshoi Ballet produced a burst of speed to win by just over two lengths. Lough Derg just missed out on the places late on by Flying Visit and Taipan.
O’Brien said: “You’d be delighted with him as he only ran on soft ground (last season) and will have learned a lot today.
“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.
“High Definition will go for one of the Derby trials. We didn’t want to give him two runs before the Derby, but we thought this horse would be able for two.
“He’s in full work and we’re very happy with him.”
O’Brien also discussed the Classic front of Santa Barbara, who is reported to be all the rage for the Qipco 1000 Guineas in recent weeks after her trainer gave her a glowing report in a stable tour.
He said: “Santa Barbara is working very well. She’s going through her work in second gear with all the fillies.
“We were going to come here and then we said we’d go straight for the Guineas.
“It’s a big ask for a filly only after having one easy run in a maiden to go to the Guineas. She looks exceptional in her work, but she’ll be very green going to a Guineas. She’ll learn a lot either ways.”
Looking to the Newmarket meeting that starts on Tuesday, O’Brien added: “We might run Khartoum in the Craven on Thursday.”
Poetic Flare (3-1)underlined his Classic credentials with an impressive display in the Ballylinch Stud “Red Rocks” 2,000 Guineas Trial.
A son of trainer Jim Bolger’s multiple Group One winner Dawn Approach, Poetic Flare won twice from three juvenile starts last season, including a course and distance success in October’s Killavullan Stakes.
Making his first appearance since, the three-year-old was always travelling strongly towards the head of affairs.
Ace Aussie came from a long way back to grab the runner-up spot late on, but never threatened to lay a glove on Poet Flare, who had already quickened up smartly to seal a one-and-a-half-length victory in the hands of Kevin Manning.
Bolger was represented by his daughter, Una Manning, who said: “I’m told he could go anywhere. He (Bolger) hasn’t decided which of the Guineas, but the two of them (Poetic Flare and Mac Swiney) won’t run in the same race. The boss is very happy with them.
“He hasn’t been away anywhere this year for a gallop so he’s absolutely delighted.
“We were confident he wouldn’t have any problems handling the ground. Last year we just had to play the cards we were dealt and he had to run on soft ground, but he’s not ground dependent.
“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.”
Keeper Of Time (80-1) clung on for a shock victory in the Ballylinch Stud “Priory Belle” 1,000 Guineas Trial.
The daughter of Mehmas was ignored in the betting for the Group Three contest having finished fifth in a Curragh handicap on her first start for trainer Johnny Feane three weeks ago.
However, ridden by Ronan Whelan, Keeper Of Time displayed a smart change of gear to come from the middle of pack and grab the lead in the final furlong – and she had just enough in the tank to repel the thrusting late challenge of Mehnah by a head.
It was a first Group-race winner for Feane, who said: “Kevin Manning thought she ran a cracker in the Madrid at the Curragh. She’s toughed it out well today.
“Ronan gave her a lovely ride, settled her in and came with a run. We’re thrilled with her.
“The better ground helped – she wants good ground. She’s probably a filly that would suit America or somewhere like that.
“There were offers for her before, but there will probably be more on the table after this.”
He added: “We had a Listed winner last year, but that would be our biggest winner so far.”.