Jim Bolger’s Moonlight Magic takes Leopardstown Derby Trial

Aidain O’Brien’s Shogun and Idaho follow 6-1 shot home but Derby picture remains fuzzy

Moonlight Magic takes the Derby trial at Leopardstown. Photograph: Sportsfile

Moonlight Magic takes the Derby trial at Leopardstown. Photograph: Sportsfile

 

The timing of Jim Bolger’s return to winning form coincided with Moonlight Magic appearing to earn a spot in racing’s most timeless classic although Sunday’s Leopardstown feature wrapped up a week of Epsom trials which still leaves the Derby picture looking distinctly fuzzy.

Thursday’s Dante at York could yet unscramble things but it is still the 1,000 Guineas winner, Minding who still tops ante-post betting lists ‘with a run’ after another clutch of her male stable failed to grab the popular imagination in the Derrinstown Trial.

Shogun, Idaho and Beacon Rock filled the minor placings behind Moonlight Magic who failed to fire in the Ballysax a month earlier yet did a much better job of living up to his illustrious pedigree in the prestigious Group 3.

Out of a half-sister to the Derby heroes Sea The Stars and Galileo, the Godolphin owned colt confirmed his trainer’s return to form generally and is a 16-1 shot to provide Bolger with a second Epsom success.

The man who trained New Approach to win the 2008 Derby landed the Derrinstown in 1992 with St Jovite, who finished runner up at Epsom, but prior to the weekend had gone a month without a winner.

That streak ended at Wexford on Saturday but Sunday’s Group 3 double, which also included the 14-1 Steip Amach in the Amethyst Stakes, was at another level again and Bolger is keen to go to Epsom with Moonlight Magic.

“I’d have to discuss it with the Godolphin people and arrive at a consensus. If it were left to me I’d be very keen to go,” he said.

“He was as good today as St Jovite was when he won the Derrinstown. He’s a proper Derby horse. I would respect the opposition but not fear them. I got it wrong the last day, he probably wasn’t at the top of his game and we paid the price, but he’s bounced back today,” Bolger added.

Aidan O’Brien indicated that Deauville and Black Sea are set take on the top cross-channel colt Midterm in the Dante and appeared determined to take the positives from the performances of Shogun and Idaho in particular.

“They weren’t stopping going to the line and they ran well so it’s all to play for,” suggested O’Brien who later won a maiden with Cole Porter.

Shogun was immediately cut to 20-1 for Epsom but perhaps the most encouraging part of Sunday’s result from a Ballydoyle point of view was that Moonlight Magic beat his pacemaker, Saafarr, by less than three lengths while The Gurkha beat the same colt by nine in a Navan maiden three weeks ago.

Dermot Weld’s Tirmizi proved a bitter disappointment but his jockey Pat Smullen confirmed he will team up with Midterm in the Dante, taking over from Ryan Moore who is committed to riding for Ballydoyle.

US Army Ranger still appears O’Brien’s No.1 colt but even after the champion trainer’s son, Joseph, was responsible for a third juvenile winner this season with Lundy the topic of Minding and Derby wouldn’t go away.

“Minding was brilliant at two and it looks like she’s improved from two to three. She could be a brilliant filly,” said O’Brien Jnr.

Now Or Never looked a pretty good filly herself when giving Kieren Fallon a first European Group success in almost two years in the 1,000 Guineas Trial.

The veteran jockey was easing Michael O’Callaghan’s star from well before the line and is 6-1 for the Curragh Guineas in a fortnight.

“She felt like a Guineas horse to me. With the exception of Russian Rhythm she’d be as good as any of the rest, Sleepytime, Virginia Waters, all those,” said Fallon.

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