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PAT HEALY: This week Pat looks ahead to a cracking weekend of racing at Epsom for the Derby & Oaks weekend.


The Derby

As always, the Derby looks a fascinating contest. The fact Aidan O’Brien has decided to only run one horse in Bolshoi Ballet has really added a level of intrigue to a race that was already full of it. He often runs three or more it, but he’s decided to split up Bolshoi and High Definition this year which is a very interesting decision. You could argue it’s probably a tip itself that he’s only sending one over and you’d have to think he’s done plenty at home to suggest he’s the rightful favourite. Of course, he’s sired by Galileo – the horse that gave Aidan his first Derby winner 20 years ago. If Bolshoi Ballet does get the job done, then it would give his trainer a record ninth win in the race. To think he’ll have done that in just 20 years is a quite astonishing achievement.

I’ve talked plenty about Mac Swiney who I rate very highly also. He clearly needed his first run of the season at Leopardstown and that brought him only on perfectly for the Irish 2000 Guineas last time. Any horse trained by Jim Bolger has to be respected and I’d imagine this has been the plan for him for a long while now.

I’m gutted I won’t be at Epsom this year. I usually travel over for both days of the meeting and it’s just such a shame that the way the world is at the moment prevents that. I’ve covered the race 25 times and I really hope I’ll be able to head back over there next year. It’s the world’s greatest Flat race and to be there on the ground is very special.

The Oaks

Like the Derby, the Oaks looks very competitive and it has become the norm that we’ve got another Aidan O’Brien favourite. Santa Barbara is clearly a very talented filly, but there does seem to be an awful lot of hype around here given we’ve only seen her twice on a racecourse. She ran pretty well in the Guineas considering her lack of experience and now she tries a mile and a half in the Oaks. I’m sure they’ll be plenty of disappointed people if she doesn’t win as every man and his dog seems to be on her! It’s the Oaks and it won’t be easy to win, so we’ll just have to see on Friday if she’s stepped forward from Newmarket on Friday.

Annalise Cullen

I really wanted to give Annalise Cullen a quick mention as she rode three winners in a week which is a fantastic achievement. She only got in to race riding because of COVID and it’s brilliant to see her having plenty of success already. She’s still very much learning her trade, but the omens are pretty clear that she has ability and let’s just hope she can keep on learning and improving. Along with the likes of Siobhan Rutledge, it’s great to see these young female jockeys going well and it bodes really well for the future.

Listowel

We’re racing for the first time over three days at Listowel this coming weekend and it’s great we’ve been able to name some of the races in honour of former friends such as Anthony Powell and John-Thomas McNamara as well as the recently retired legends of the game like Barry Geraghty and John Oxx.