BOLSHOI BALLET headlines Saturday's $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational for 3 year olds going 1 ¼ miles over the inner turf course.
The colt is trained by Aiden O'Brien, who is well known for his talented turf horses and BOLSHOI BALLET is considered one of his heaviest hitters. He is owned by Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Westerberg and will travel across the Atlantic to compete in the nine-horse field. The colt's last start resulted in a cut right hind leg and a disappointing seventh place finish in the Group 1 Epsom Derby on June 5th. However, the son of GALILEO, won two races going the Belmont distance in the Group 3 Ballysax by 1 ½ lengths in April and the Group 3 Derrinstown by six lengths in May.
The Belmont Derby Invitational is the first leg of the NYRA's Turf Triple series. The next leg is the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 7th and the $1 million Jockey Club Derby on September 18th at Belmont.
O'Brien's travelling assistant, T.J. Comerford said of the colt's Epsom performance, "He's been training well since the Derby. Once he has good to firm ground, that makes a difference. I suppose that race wasn't ideal that day at Epsom. The ground may have gone against him. He's coming here now trying to pick up the pieces where he left off at Leopardstown." Ryan Moore ha the ride.
BOLSHOI BALLET will have some competition, however. HARD LOVE had five months of rest before winning the Woodhaven on April 17th at Aqueduct, defeating GAMBLE by 1 ¼ lengths. HARD LOVE is trainer Jonathan Thomas and Robert LaPenta. The campaigned 2018 winner CATHOLIC BOY. He will be ridden by Manny Franco.
SAINTHOOD will make his turf debut after winning the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge by over a length on a sloppy and sealed track. The colt is the first graded stakes winner for his sire, MSHAWISH. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
Trainer Bill Mott will be running DU JOUR. The TEMPLE CITY son broke his maiden just three starts ago at Santa Anita on the turf. He then won the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs. Falvient Prat will be aboard. This is the first time the colt will see ten furlongs.
PALAZZI, owned John C. Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, is the most experienced horse in the field. He has a record of 2-2-2 from ten starts. The PIONEEROF THE NILE on broke his maiden at 15-1 odds in December at Fair Grounds and won the Texas Turf Mile at Sam Houston by a nose. Tyler Gaffalione will have the ride.
TOKYO GOLD is also shipping from Europe for the turf test. Owned by Teruya Yoshida and trained by Shinya Kobayashi, the colt won the 11 furlong Derby Italiano on May 23rd at Campanelle Race Course in Italy. His other starts were in France. John Velazquez will ride.
CELLIST will be running for trainer Rusty Arnold. The trainer is looking for his first win in the race since WEST BY WEST in 1992. He won the Audubon on May 29th at Churchill Downs in which he commanded the nine-furlong race and repelling a late bid by PALAZZI. Julien Leparoux will be riding.
HIDDEN ENEMY, trained by Steve Asmussen, will be ridden by Luis Saez. He last finished fourth in the Grade 2 American Turf and the Audubon.
Finally, SAFE CONDUCT will be ridden by Jose Lezcano. The BODEMIESTER son broke his maiden going two turns in August at Saratoga. After a seven month break, he won in an upset with the same conditions at Gulfstream Park.