Bolshoi Ballet Continues the Hunt for Turf Triple Series

August 4, 2021

Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Westerberg’s Bolshoi Ballet will look to capture the second leg of NYRA’s Turf Triple series for sophomores in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational at Saratoga Race Course.

The 1 3/16-mile Mellon turf test is one of three Grade 1 events on Saturday’s 12-race card, led by the $1 million Whitney at nine-furlongs on the main track for older males and the $500,000 Longines Test for sophomore fillies at seven furlongs on the main track. The lucrative card is bolstered by the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls at 12 furlongs on the inner turf for older fillies and mares and the $120,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure for older horses at 1 1/16-miles on the Mellon turf course.

Bolshoi Ballet, by the late Galileo and trained by Aidan O’Brien, was a visually-appealing winner of the 10-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational on July 10, capturing the first leg of NYRA’s Turf Triple series by 1 1/4-lengths over good turf under jockey Ryan Moore’s confident handling.

T.J. Comerford, traveling assistant for O’Brien, said the team is expecting another top performance.

“It’s a good opportunity for him,’ Comerford said. “He’s doing well and came back here in good order. Aidan and the team are very happy with him at the moment. If he runs to his last race, he should be right there again.”

A victory on Saturday could set Bolshoi Ballet up to become the first horse to capture all three legs of the Turf Triple series that was inaugurated in 2019. The series concludes September 18 at Belmont with the 12-furlong $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Following a juvenile campaign which included a four-length maiden triumph over yielding turf on October 16 at Leopardstown, Bolshoi Ballet launched his sophomore season with decisive wins in the Ballysax on April 11 and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on May 9, both Group 3 events at 1 1/4 miles at Leopardstown.

Bolshoi Ballet entered the Belmont Derby from a disappointing seventh as the beaten favorite in the Group 1 Epsom Derby on June 5, emerging with a cut to his right hind leg.

Bolshoi Ballet, who will exit from post 6 under Moore, who will look to provide O’Brien with his first Saratoga winner in his eighth attempt.

Moore, a three-time champion jockey in his native Great Britain, seeks his first win at Saratoga in his third attempt following a runner-up effort with Mendelssohn in the 2018 Grade 1 Travers and a sixth with Idaho in the 2017 Grade 1 Sword Dancer.

Alpha Racing’s Cadillac, an Irish-bred son of Lope de Vega, cruised to victory in the one-mile Group 2 Champions Juvenile in September at Leopardstown for trainer Jessica Harrington.

Out of the Dansili mare Seas of Wells, Cadillac followed with a fifth-place effort in the seven-furlong Group 1 Dewhurst in October at Newmarket ahead of a closing fourth in the one-mile Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November at Keeneland.

Cadillac made a winning seasonal debut last out with a nose score over Dawn Patrol in the 10-furlong Group 3 ARM Holding International on June 26 at the Curragh.

Shane Foley retains the mount from post 4.

Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm’s King Fury was pointed to last weekend’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy before changing course towards a turf debut after his barn was placed under a precautionary quarantine – which was lifted on Sunday – due to a positive case of Equine Herpesvirus-1 in that barn.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, the Curlin chestnut captured the 1 1/16-mile Street Sense in October at Churchill Downs and made the grade in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Lexington in April at Keeneland.

Following a closing second to Masqueparade [who subsequently ran third in the Jim Dandy] last out on June 26 in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown, King Fury has breezed three times at Saratoga, including a five-eighths effort in 1:01.25 Sunday on the Oklahoma training turf.

McPeek said Saturday’s test could serve as a prep for the Grade1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers at 10 furlongs on the Saratoga main track on August 28, a double last accomplished by Catholic Boy in 2018.

“We’re really using this race as a prep for the Travers, which is something that Catholic Boy pulled off. So that will be interesting,” McPeek said. “I think he’ll handle the grass just fine. He’s a lovely horse. So hopefully, it’s one step and a big one for him.”

McPeek, who will also saddle filly Swiss Skydiver in the Whitney, noted his previous success with versatile runners, including multiple graded stakes winner Frac Daddy who was an allowance winner on turf and the 2017 Kentucky Oaks runner-up Daddys Lil Darling, who captured that year’s Grade 1 American Oaks on the Santa Anita turf.

“A good horse will run on just about anything given the chance,” McPeek said. “There’s some throwback horses over the years I’ve had that were like that. I spent a lot of time around Einstein, and he ran on anything, Frac Daddy was another one who ran on about anything. Dr. Fager ran on both surfaces back in the day. Daddys Lil Darling ran on dirt and turf, it didn’t matter. I could run Swiss Skydiver on the grass and it wouldn’t bother her.”

Ortiz will pilot King Fury from the outermost post 11.

Trainer Charlie Appleby will saddle Godolphin’s Secret Protector, a Kentucky-bred son of War Front, as he looks to build on his great success in Grade 1 NYRA turf events this year, following one-two finishes with fillies Althiqa and Summer Romance in both the Longines Just a Game in June at Belmont and the Diana last month at Saratoga.

An $800,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Secret Protector was a dominant winner of the 1 3/16-mile Meydan Trophy in February ahead of back-to-back runner-up efforts to well-regarded Mohaafeth in 10-furlong events, including the Newmarket in May and the Group 3 Hampton Court last out on June 17 at Ascot.

Chris Connett, traveling assistant for Appleby, said the distance should suit Secret Protector.

“Trip wise it looks really made for him,” Connett said. “His run at Ascot was very good. I know he didn’t win but from where he was in the run to how he finished was quite striking. It’s going to be a tough race with Aidan’s horse and a few of the others but Charlie is fairly confident if he runs the race he run at Ascot, he will take a bit of beating.”

Connect said Secret Protector would prefer good-to-firm footing.

“He’s fairly versatile. He wouldn’t really want it like a road but on the quicker side of things is fine,” said Connett.

Hall of Famer Mike Smith rides from post 7.

Calumet Farm’s Cellist, trained by Rusty Arnold, has hit the board in 4-of-5 starts. The Big Blue Kitten bay, out of the English Channel mare Cello, captured the nine-furlong Audubon in May over good Churchill Downs turf.

A prominent Cellist made the lead at the stretch call of the Belmont Derby under regular pilot Julien Leparoux but had to settle for third after being passed late by Bolshoi Ballet and runner-up Tokyo Gold.

Leparoux retains the mount from post 8.

Natalie J. Baffert and Debbie Lanni’s Du Jour garnered an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 American Turf in May at Churchill Downs. Last out, Du Jour endured a wide trip in the Belmont Derby but stayed on for fourth.

Du Jour will emerge from post 2 under Joel Rosario.

Trainer Mark Casse, who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame on Friday, will saddle John Oxley’s late-running Palazzi. The Pioneerof the Nile colt finished sixth after exiting the inside post under Tyler Gaffalione in the Belmont Derby.

“He needs luck and pace. Two things he didn’t have in his last start,” Casse said. “It was very frustrating because he was down on the inside with nowhere to go.”

Palazzi was a nose winner of the Texas Turf Mile in January at Sam Houston and two starts later closed to finish second in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Transylvania in April over good Keeneland turf.

He entered the Belmont Derby from a closing second to Cellist in the Audubon.

Gaffalione will guide Palazzi from post 3.

Edge Racing’s Yes This Time has won 6-of-8 career starts, including stakes scores in his last two outings in the 1 1/16-mile English Channel in May over good Gulfstream Park turf and the Grade 3 Kent in July at Delaware traveling nine furlongs over soft going.

Trained by Kelly Breen, the Not This Time chestnut is out of the Smart Strike mare Smart Jilly, who is a full-sister to multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Strike a Deal.

Yes This Time will leave from post 5 under Luis Saez.

Teme Valley’s State of Rest, an Irish-bred son of Starspangledbanner trained by Joseph O’Brien, finished third in the seven-furlong Group 2 Champagne in September at Doncaster but failed to fire next out in the one-mile Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy in October on the same course.

Last out, State of Rest finished a close third in the one-mile Celebration, a half-length back of the victorious Fourhometwo and just a nose in arrears of runner-up Khartoum over good going on June 26 at the Curragh.

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will pilot State of Rest from post 9.

Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael Caruso’s Soldier Rising, a British-bred son of Frankel, will make his graded-stakes debut for trainer Christophe Clement.

Soldier Rising has made all four career starts in France for his former conditioner Andre Fabre, including an allowance score traveling 12-furlongs over soft going in April at Chantilly. Last out, the bay gelding finished second in the listed Prix de l’Avre traveling 12-furlongs over soft ground at Longchamp.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. will guide Soldier Rising from the inside post.

Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, Nicolas Drion and Mathilde Powell’s Flashiest has won 3-of-4 starts, including a first stakes score last out in the one-mile Oceanside at one-mile on firm Del Mar turf.

Trained by Leonard Powell, the Mizzen Mast gelding graduated at first asking in April in a maiden claimer at Turf Paradise and followed by besting winners in a one-mile optional-claimer in May at Santa Anita.

Jose Lezcano will guide Flashiest from post 10.

The Saratoga Derby is slated at Race 9 on Saturday’s 12-race card. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the summer meet on FOX Sports. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit

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Photo: Bolshoi Ballet ( NYRA Photo)

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