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6 May 2021

Which Horse Can Win a Ninth Derby for O'Brien?

Aidan O'Brien is the most successful trainer in the history of The Derby. The Irishman won his eighth victory at the prestigious race at the Epsom Downs in 2020 when Serpentine delivered a spectacular performance as an outsider to claim the crown. True to form, O'Brien has a long list of charges that are preparing to deliver a ninth win at the event, further extending his dominance over the rest of the sport. Here are the three horses that stand the best chance to triumph ahead of their rivals. 

High Definition 

O'Brien has pulled his charge out of the Lingfield Derby Trial, which could raise alarms for a run at Epsom. However, the three-year-old is the leading contender in the horse racing betting odds for The Derby crown. High Definition was outstanding at the end of the 2020 season in Ireland. On his debut run in Curragh, he charged through the field in the closing stages of the contest. High Definition beat out a number of talented horses to claim the win, finishing three-quarters of a length ahead of his stable-mate Wordsworth.


High Definition followed up his fine performance with another excellent run at Curragh, this time in the Beresford Stakes. Seamie Heffernan got the best out of his charge, surging away from the field at the right moment to close out his second victory. He has not been in action since, which could be a concern, although it is not essential for him to compete before a run at Derby glory. 

Bolshoi Ballet 

The three-year-old has more experience than his stable-mate, although his record has been up and down since making his debut midway through the 2020 campaign. Bolshoi Ballet finished third at Newmarket in his maiden stakes but was on form in his second outing in Leopardstown to get off the mark in his career. However, the Irish thoroughbred finished the campaign on an underwhelming note, placing in fifth at the Criterium de Saint-Cloud. 

O'Brien's charge returned for the 2021 season in April at Leopardstown and returned to his peak form. He dominated the rest of the field in the Ballysax Stakes to close out a victory by two-and-a-quarter lengths with Ryan Moore in the saddle. Moore will have his pick of O'Brien's horses and should he select Bolshoi Ballet, it could be a telling factor as he pursues his third win at The Derby.

Van Gogh 

Van Gogh has eight runs under his belt and two victories after making several appearances last year as a two-year-old. He made an impression in the Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown where he was just beaten out by a neck by Military Style. It was the same story in the Juvenile Stakes when Cadillac bested the American thoroughbred. However, he did make his breakthrough at Curragh at the end of September. As a result of his victory, Van Gogh was installed as one of the leading contenders for the Autumn Stakes. 

The pace of One Ruler was too much for O'Brien's charge to handle at Newmarket, placing second finishing three-and-a-half lengths behind the winner. Van Gogh ended his campaign with a sterling effort at Saint-Cloud in the Criterium International, dominating the field to notch the second win of his career.

The American thoroughbred was an outsider at 20/1 for the 2,000 Guineas to start the term. Although he finished down in eighth, he was the best of O'Brien's performers placing ahead of Wembley and Battleground. Given that Serpentine was down the pecking order for O'Brien last term, do not sleep on Van Gogh at The Derby.