September 24, 2023

Yibir, Bolshoi Ballet clash in Jockey Club Derby for BC Turf spot

Bolshoi Ballet wins the Belmont Derby (Photo by Janet Garaguso/Coglianese Photos)

Jockey Club Derby — Race 10 (5:45 p.m. ET)

Godolphin has been the team to beat in many of the leading three-year-old races on both sides of the Atlantic this season, and Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park might prove no exception when European raider Yibir lines up in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Nov. 6 Turf (G1).

A son of Dubawi who as a gelding was ineligible for any of the European classics, Yibir has nonetheless enjoyed a fruitful campaign. The Charlie Appleby trainee has registered a pair of group wins in his last three starts — the 1 5/8-mile Bahrain Trophy (G3) at Newmarket and the 1 1/2-mile Great Voltigeur (G2) at York.

“He has phenomenal talent and when things fall right for him, he can be any kind of horse,” said traveling assistant Chris Connett.

“(Belmont is) the kind of track that should suit him. It’s one of the biggest galloping tracks in North America and it will suit the big horse that he is.”

Bolshoi Ballet will be making his third excursion to the U.S. for Ballydoyle and trainer Aidan O’Brien. Although victorious in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Derby (G1) in July, the son of Galileo faded to fourth in the shorter Saratoga Derby (G1) last month.

Tokyo Gold, the Italian Derby (G2) winner who finished second to Bolshoi Boy in the Belmont Derby, returns for his Japanese connections, while Saratoga Derby runner-up Soldier Rising looks a solid prospect in his second start for Christophe Clement.

Stepping up in class are Bruce D. (G1) runner-up Tango Tango Tango and Virginia Derby (G3) second Slicked Back.

Jockey Club Oaks — Race 9 (5:14 p.m. ET)

There’s not much apparent speed in the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks, which will be contested for three-year-old fillies over 1 3/8 miles on the turf. Higher Truth has tactical foot, though, and perhaps is due for better luck after narrowly losing the Belmont Oaks (G1) and Saratoga Oaks (G3) for trainer Chad Brown, who also sends out Shantisara, an easy winner of the Pucker Up (G3) at Arlington last time.

The Godolphin-owned Creative Flair was third, beaten two lengths, by lone speed Con Lima in the Saratoga Oaks and merits a long look, while French Group 3 heroine Harajuku invades for trainer Andre Fabre. Madone is a two-time graded winner in California this year, but was a lackluster fifth in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) most recently.

Stepping up off an impressive maiden win at Saratoga is the Shug McGaughey-trained Baby Blythe, an American Pharoah filly who won by seven lengths going 1 3/16 miles.

Earlier in the card, Lone Rock will be a prohibitive favorite to win his fourth stakes of the season in the $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club over 1 5/8 miles on the main track. The Robertino Diodoro charge was dominant over the track in June, taking the 12-furlong Brooklyn (G2) by more than 11 lengths.