Aidan O’Brien, the master trainer responsible for the top two in the Cazoo Derby (G1) market and seeking a record-extending ninth win in the race, expects the strong pace at Epsom June 5 to bring out the best in High Definition , the stable’s apparent second string.
Bolshoi Ballet heads the Derby betting and goes into the race as O’Brien’s number one contender, but the trainer believes there have been valid reasons for High Definition hitting flat spots in his races, adding that the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante (G2) third has “a load of class.”
High Definition hit a high of 99-1 in-running on the Betfair Exchange on the way to winning his first two races, and again found himself with a mountain to climb at York before staying on strongly to finish two lengths behind Hurricane Lane .
His preparation for the Dante was rushed as an unsatisfactory blood test ruled him out of his intended reappearance in Lingfield’s Novibet Derby Trial Stakes, and the winter favorite for the Derby now finds himself the stable’s second string and available at 7-1 with some firms behind general 5-4 favorite Bolshoi Ballet.
Hurricane Lane defeats High Definition (purple cap) in the Dante Stakes at York Racecourse
O’Brien, who was speaking via Zoom as part of the Jockey Club’s countdown to the Derby, thinks a different High Definition to the one we have seen before will be on display Saturday.
O’Brien said: “High Definition has a load of class. His only run this year was at York and it wasn’t a strongly run mile and a quarter. You rarely get a Derby that is not strongly run, so I’m not too worried about that (him finding himself far back) because he does make up ground very quickly, even though you might see the jockey starting to move on him. Because he has such a big long stride, a jockey is always going to look like they are moving on him.
“Epsom is a unique track and you’re never sure of any horse when they go there but, usually, if they’re good enough on the day the track is not too much of a problem. It becomes a problem when you’re in top gear and you can’t find another one.”
Explaining why High Definition found himself so far back when he won his maiden at the Curragh, and again in the Alan Smurfit Memorial Beresford (G2) at the same venue, O’Brien said: “How it all happened was that first time in a maiden Wayne Lordan rode him and we just said to Wayne that he was a big horse and we didn’t want to be forcing him into anything. We told Wayne to take his time in the first half of the race and see what happens. That’s what Wayne did, and he came home very well.
“It was the same in the Beresford next time, but we never forced him out. He found himself a little bit back in that race, but we didn’t want to change things too much. When Ryan Moore rode him at York it was the same thing. I told Ryan not to be in any rush with him early and to let him find his feet and then see what happens.
“We have never really asked him to do anything other than that. I know he gets a little bit back in his races sometimes and, when that does happen, it makes it a bit more difficult.”
Ladbrokes cut Bolshoi Ballet into 11-8 (from 6-4) June 1, and O’Brien reports everything to have gone smoothly since his wide-margin Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (G3) win at Leopardstown last month.
The trainer said: “We were very happy with Bolshoi Ballet’s last bit of work and everything is well with him. The plan was always to travel him last year so we wouldn’t have to travel him in the spring of this year or the early summer.
“The two trials at Leopardstown went well and everything has gone smoothly since the Derrinstown. We’re all very happy with him.”
O’Brien is still unsure how many he will run in race, but it is highly unlikely all six of his current entries will stand their ground.
He explained: “Nothing is definite yet. They all did their last piece of work this morning (Tuesday) and the figures from that are being analyzed at the moment. Then they will have their bloods done and scoped in the morning. We will have the results tomorrow lunchtime or a little later and then the lads will decide what they want to do.”