Trainer Aiden O'Brien had a big day at Belmont Park, capturing both G1 events of the Saturday card. Both of his entrants held top favoritism by post time, and did not disappoint.
Bolshoi Ballet: Much The Best in Belmont Derby
Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John ‘Susan' Magnier, and Derrick Smith's BOLSHOI BALLET launched a strong late kick in deep stretch and powered clear to win the $1,000,000 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1).
The victory gave Aiden O'Brien his second Belmont Derby victory, having won it with DEAUVILLE in 2016.
Ridden by Ryan Moore and sent off as the $1.05-to-win favorite, BOLSHOI BALLET wasn't fast to get going and raced toward the rear of the field, about six lengths off the lead while HARD LOVE pushed the opening quarters in 24.61 and 51.34. They slowed the pace right down as they raced through the backside.
"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," winning jockey Ryan Moore said, per Bob Ehalt of BloodHorse.
Approaching the turn-for-home, Ryan Moore nudges BOLSHOI BALLET for more run, and swings him five-wide into the stretch, full of horse underneath him. Meanwhile, DU JOUR and CELLIST get first jump on the leader and strike the front together.
But through the length of the stretch, BOLSHOI BALLET finds his best stride and powers home with ears pricked at the end, crossing the line to win by almost two lengths. TOKYO GOLD rallied to get up for second, then it was CELLIST in third. The final time for the one mile and one-quarter was 2:04.42.
BOLSHOI BALLET paid $4.10 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.80 to show. He is by the late GALILEO out of ALTA ANNA by ANABAA. He won his U.S. debut and is now officially a Grade 1 winner. He earned a 107 ESF rating for the effort and pushed his earnings to $638,454.
"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 Breeders' Cup Turf horse." Ryan Moore said.
Santa Barbara Scary Good in Belmont Oaks
Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John ‘Susan' Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Westerberg's SANTA BARBARA found daylight late in deep stretch and exploded home to win the $700K Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park.
Ridden by Ryan Moore and sent off at odds of $1.15-to-win, SANTA BARBARA broke evenly and positioned herself in fifth, four lengths off of leader CON LIMA who set early fractions of 24.71 and 51.31. It was a pedestian pace through the backstretch with positions remaining unchanged.
"It was quite a steadily run race," said Ryan Moore. They lined up and I was hoping Nazuna would drop away a bit sooner. I didn't want to waste too much petrol by going around her. She's got class. She's got ability. She won without me moving a muscle." (Paulick Report)
With three furlongs to go, SANTA BARBARA looks like she's got a ton of run in her, but is boxed in behind a wall of horses. In the final eight of a mile, she dives in between GAM'S MISSION and NAZUNA, and surges late to get past the leaders right before the line. CON LIMA finished half a length back in second, HIGHER TRUTH, was a head back in third. The final time for the one mile and one-quarter on turf was 2:03.76.
SANTA BARBARA paid $4.30 to win, $3.00 to place, and $2.40 to show. She is by CAMELOT out of SENTA'S DREAM by Danehill. She earned her first U.S. victory, earned an ESF rating of 112, and pushed her earnings to $491,612.
Source: Equibase, Thoroughred Daily News, Bob Ehalt, BloodHorse, Paulick Report