Road to the Epsom Derby: Bolshoi Ballet is Aidan O'Brien's only Derby challenger

Aidan O'Brien will saddle only one challenger for The Derby, red-hot favourite Bolshoi Ballet, as the final field of 12 has been confirmed. Planet Sport reviews the progress of the runners and riders.

The Epsom Derby looms large on the horizon as some hot ante-post fancies warm-up ahead of the big race on the first weekend of June.

Planet Sport looks at some of the horses who are set to tackle the famous Tattenham Corner bend at Epsom, and reviews their ongoing progress with less than a two days to go before the big race.

Derby countdown - Thursday June 3

Hot favourite Bolshoi Ballet will be Aidan O'Brien's only challenger in the confirmed 12 strong field for the Cazoo Derby.

The Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner is all the rage to provide trainer O'Brien with a record ninth victory in the premier Classic.

As expected, the Galileo colt is the sole Ballydoyle representative, with long-time ante-post favourite High Definition, Sir Lamorak, Van Gogh, Kyprios and The Mediterranean all not declared. It is the first time since 2004 O'Brien has saddled just one horse in the Derby.

Jim Bolger's Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Mac Swiney and Joseph O'Brien's Southern Lights are the other Irish challengers, while the home team includes Ed Dunlop's John Leeper.

Frankie Dettori has been called up to partner John Leeper - named after his trainer's late father John Dunlop. Dettori had been set to ride one of O'Brien's runners, but his last-minute availability means he replaces Adam Kirby.

Kirby does still have a ride, however, after being booked to ride Charlie Appleby's apparent third string Adayar.

Appleby also saddles unbeaten Dante winner Hurricane Lane, the chosen mount of William Buick, and 2000 Guineas sixth One Ruler, who will be ridden by James Doyle.

The William Haggas-trained Mohaafeth steps up in class after winning each of his three previous starts this season.

Roger Varian's Third Realm and Andrew Balding's Youth Spirit have earned their tilt at Derby glory by winning the Lingfield Derby Trial and the Chester Vase respectively.

Gear Up (Mark Johnston) and Mojo Star (Richard Hannon) are the other hopefuls.

Derby countdown - Wednesday June 2

High Definition is set to sidestep the Derby and instead run in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh on June 26.

The Galileo colt spent the winter months as ante-post favourite for the premier Classic after coming from the clouds to win the Beresford Stakes in September.

However, his preparation this spring has not been entirely straightforward, with unsatisfactory blood test results ruling him out of his intended comeback run in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

Instead, High Definition returned five days later in the Dante Stakes at York - and while he was not disgraced in finishing third on the Knavesmire, O'Brien has revealed he is set to be saved for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby later in the month.

The Ballydoyle handler still houses the hot favourite for this weekend's feature in Bolshoi Ballet.

Speaking after saddling Point Lonsdale to win the opening race at the Curragh on Wednesday, O'Brien said: "It looks like Bolshoi Ballet will run at Epsom and High Definition will wait for the Curragh."

"Nothing is written in stone until ten o'clock in the morning (final declarations), but it looks like the two horses are going to be split.

"It looks like Bolshoi Ballet is going to Epsom and it looks like High Definition is coming straight here (Curragh). Bolshoi would be our only runner at Epsom - that's what the lads are thinking to give the two of them a chance at a Derby.

"St Mark's Basilica and Van Gogh are going to France (Prix du Jockey Club, on Sunday). Kyprios is going to Ascot for the Queen's Vase and Sir Lamorak might go for the King Edward.

"We were lucky to get the run into High Definition at York and we think he's a very good horse. A little more time won't do him any harm.

"It was just to give the two of them a chance until they have to meet. The Curragh Derby is a very important race, as the Epsom Derby is also.

"I'm very happy with both horses. If we didn't get the run into High Definition then there was no decision to make as if he didn't run in York then he definitely wouldn't go to Epsom."

Derby countdown - Monday May 31

Aidan O'Brien has a team of six horses lined-up for Saturday's Derby at Epsom after the latest stage of scratchings.

Ante-post favourite Bolshoi Ballet will lead O'Brien's charge alongside High Definition, Kyprios, Sir Lamorak, The Mediterranean and Van Gogh.

Dante winner Hurricane Lane is set to be in opposition again and is one of three possibles for Charlie Appleby - along with One Ruler, who finished sixth in the 2000 Guineas and Adayar, who has finished second in Derby trials at both Sandown and Lingfield this term.

Jim Bolger's Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney brings Classic form to the table, with Joseph O'Brien's Southern Lights and rank outsider Seattle Sound from Luke Comer's yard the other Irish-trained possibles.

John Leeper is set to represent Ed Dunlop as he takes a huge step up in company after winning a Newcastle novice contest and a Listed heat at Newmarket so far.

Mohaafeth is another who will be making a significant move up in class, having won each of his three starts for William Haggas this term.

Roger Varian's Lingfield Derby Trial winner Third Realm and Andrew Balding's Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit are two other trial winners in the mix - with Mark Johnston's Gear Up, the Martyn Meade-trained Lone Eagle and Richard Hannon's maiden Mojo Star completing the 19 contenders.

Those to miss out at this stage include:

Earlswood (GB), El Drama (IRE), Etonian (IRE), Gloucestershire (USA), Hector de Maris (IRE), Sandhurst (IRE), Stay Well (GB), Taipan (FR), Yibir (GB)

Third Realm (14/1)

Trainer Roger Varian believes he has finally unearthed another legitimate Derby contender in Third Realm, with the Sea The Stars colt having earned himself a shot at Epsom glory following victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

The multiple Group One-winning trainer has surprisingly saddled just one previous runner in the premier Classic, with subsequent St Leger hero Kingston Hill filling the runner-up spot behind Australia in 2014.

"I did think he'd go and run a nice race (at Lingfield), but he'd only had two starts - and when you jump from a novice straight into a Derby trial, often they come up short because it's a big ask on a horse and they're hard races to win," said the Newmarket handler.

"Having trained horses long enough and been disappointed often, I don't think you ever go into those races too confident, but I really liked how he trained between Nottingham and Lingfield and I was obviously delighted with how it panned out and the ability he showed."

While Third Realm passed the post with just over a length in hand over Adayar at Lingfield, Varian feels the winning margin underestimates his superiority to his rivals on the day.

He added: "He came down the hill very well. I think what I was really impressed with was the ease with which he took himself into contention - the visual impression he gave me at the bottom of the hill was that he just looked the best horse in the race.

"When he got to the front he probably got a bit lonely and he had to dig deep in the end, but it was only his third start and I thought if David (Egan) had waited longer and produced him with a furlong to run, he might have won even more impressively.

"I think he's got an outstanding attitude for a race like the Derby. He seems to conserve energy - he's not a flashy worker at home and just does what you ask him to.

"We're very much looking forward to the day. He's a relaxed character and a bit of a cool dude, so I would be hopeful he'll handle whatever Epsom throws at him."

Mohaafeth (7/1)

Trainer William Haggas has high hopes for Mohaafeth after putting him through his paces during a practice gallop on the Rowley Mile.

Haggas said: "He's very good, Jim (Crowley) came and rode him, and he worked with two very smart older horses and went very nicely.

"The ground was too soft really, and I've been quoted several times as saying he's a top-of-the ground horse - and I stick by that. It was surprisingly soft on the Rowley Mile, but he travelled very comfortably with Ilaraab and Faylaq.

"It was a hard piece of work, and now we hopefully can have an easy time as we lead into next Saturday.

"I wasn't trying to find out if he was going to win the Derby. But I wanted it like a racecourse gallop should be, so he walked around the paddock to make it different from a normal gallop.

"I gave him a hard task today. Faylaq is rated 105 - which is probably too high - Cieren Fallon rode him, and Tom Marquand rode Ilaraab. So if you take weight-for-age in, he was probably asked a lot, but I wanted the other two to get going three furlongs out so he had a stretch. It just means he can have an easy week next week.

"I reiterated to Tom and Cieren, it wasn't a race, it was a gallop to get the best out of Mohaafeth."

Mohaafeth runs in the famous blue and while silks of Shadwell Stud, whose founder Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum died earlier this year, and Haggas knows his horse will be in for a challenge.

"There are plenty of dangers. I thought at the time the Sandown trial we won (with Alenquer) was very strong, but it turns out it wasn't a very good race - although Lone Eagle did win the other day.

"I suppose Bolshoi Ballet was impressive, Mac Swiney has won a Guineas - he's got to stay, but the trainer says he will. We'll have all on, beating the Irish. The one I think ultimately will be the best one will be High Definition.

"I'm sure he'll run, because Ryan (Moore) looked after him at York, and he's virtually certain to be better over a mile and a half.

"But he's got the track to contend with - and if he's slow into his stride and the Piggott theory about needing a good position … well, it will be hard for him.

"I thought Roger's (Varian) horse (Third Realm) was impressive at Lingfield. He's nuggety and bound to run in the first four, I would think. But he's a stayer, and they'll be attacking a long way from home.

"I'm hoping Mohaafeth goes through a lot of the race on the bridle, and then the last bit we won't know.

"I think probably Bolshoi Ballet will win, because he's got a lot in his favour, providing he stays, but most Galileos stay really well."

Mac Swiney (7/1) and Van Gogh (16/1)

Mac Swiney raised his game to land Irish 2000 Guineas glory at the Curragh - coming out on top after a thrilling duel with Poetic Flare.

Having rounded off his juvenile campaign with a Group One success in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster, Mac Swiney finished a slightly disappointing fourth on his reappearance in the in Leopardstown's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. But he stepped up to the plate at the Curragh.

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Speaking on Racing TV's Luck on Sunday programme, trainer Jim Bolger said of Mac Swiney: "As they say in the west of Ireland, I was mighty impressed with him.

"I thought that he stuck to the task really well - any horse wishing to take him on and beat him in the future will have to be up for it because he isn't going to give in easily.

"I'm very fortunate that the two talented three-year-olds colts I have at the moment both have great temperaments and they can take anything that I throw at them.

"They're only different in the amount of work that they take. Mac Swiney takes very little work, whereas the other fella takes an awful lot of work, which is why I felt he would stand up to the three Guineas."

Mac Swiney will now bid to emulate his sire New Approach by winning the Cazoo Derby, for which he is a general 7-1 shot.

"I'm the world's worst punter, so asking me what price he should be wouldn't get a very knowledgeable answer," Bolger added.

"In my mind there isn't anything ahead of him - the form is there now."

Van Gogh fared best of the race's Ballydoyle contingent finishing in third, though his odds for the Derby have started to drift.

Lone Eagle (25/1)

Lone Eagle produced a dominant front-running display in the British Stallion Studs EBF Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood.

Martyn Meade's Galileo colt ended last season on a high, winning his final three outings, but his Cazoo Derby aspirations took a knock when he could finish only fourth in the Sandown Classic Trial.

Reunited with Silvestre de Sousa, he reverted to attempting to make all the running, despite carrying a 5lb penalty.

In the testing conditions his rivals dropped away one by one, but William Buick still looked to be sitting pretty on Yibir with two furlongs to run.

When stamina became an issue, though, Lone Eagle (3/1) came into his element and went on to pull four lengths clear.

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Coral cut his Derby odds to 25/1 from 40s, while he is 20/1 for the St Leger.

Meade said: "Obviously we were a little bit disappointed at Sandown and after that we came here with a little bit of trepidation - especially with the strong wind up the straight.

"He's a horse that only just does enough at home and you can't put him under pressure, so today we decided to try to make it a gallop because he is relentless and he has a big heart, so that when they come to him he finds more.

"He's in the Derby and the Irish Derby and the end game could be something like the St Leger, but we need to revisit.

"I would love to go for the big prizes, but I'm inclined to take small steps as it is a long season."

John Leeper (8/1)

Adam Kirby will be on board Ed Dunlop's John Leeper, currently among the most prominent British hopes in the ante-post market.

He has also already ridden John Leeper on the gallops, and is confident he will be suited by his Epsom assignment.

A clutch of other high-profile jockeys had been linked with the possibility of riding the son of the mighty Frankel and Dunlop's Snow Fairy - who won the 2010 Oaks for the same owners.

But confirming reports that he will be in the saddle, Kirby told Sky Sports Racing: "I'm really pleased with that - thanks to all connections.

"I'm looking forward to him."

John Leeper, named after Dunlop's father and training great John, has won both his starts this season - under Hollie Doyle and most recently William Buick, in a Listed race at Newmarket last weekend.

He pulled hard in that slowly-run contest over 10 furlongs, but Kirby expects a different set of circumstances in the Derby.

"I've sat on him, and he's a lovely moving horse," he added.

"I wouldn't describe him as keen - he just covers a lot of ground.

"I hope it's a true-run race, and it will be fine."

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Latest scratchings deadline

29 horses remain in contention after the latest round of scratchings on Tuesday May 18. They are:

Adayar (IRE), Bolshoi Ballet (IRE), Earlswood (GB), El Drama (IRE), Etonian (IRE), Gear Up (IRE), Gloucestershire (USA), Hector de Maris (IRE), High Definition (IRE), Hurricane Lane (IRE), John Leeper (IRE), Kyprios (IRE), Lone Eagle (IRE), Mac Swiney (IRE), Mohaafeth (IRE), Mojo Star (IRE), One Ruler (IRE), Sandhurst (IRE), Seattle Creek (GB), Seattle Sound (IRE), Sir Lamorak (IRE), Southern Lights (IRE), Stay Well (GB), Taipan (FR), The Mediterranean (IRE), Third Realm (GB), Van Gogh (USA), Yibir (GB), Youth Spirit (IRE)

Some of the other fancies who were removed included Derab, Maximal, Wirko, Uncle Bryn, Roman Empire, Cleveland, Sir Lucan, Wordsworth and Wembley

Hurricane Lane (6/1)

Hurricane Lane ground out a success by three-quarters of a length success burst to win the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes.

Ridden by William Buick and trained by Charlie Appleby, the son of Frankel took control well inside the furlong to claim the Group Two honours.

It was a welcome boost for Godolphin and Appleby after several previous runners in the recognised Classic trials fell short of expectations.

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"He's got a great temperament for a big horse and is a good mover. It was lovely ground and he's jumped and travelled well and stayed well, so he ticks a lot of the boxes (for the Derby).

"He obviously beat Maximal at Newbury and Maximal went and ran well at Chester (second in the Dee Stakes), so we were confident that Hurricane Lane was the right one to go to the Dante.

"I was a bit worried Hollie's horse had got away from them, but once I saw he was stopping, I was confident our horse would keep galloping and that's what he's done.

"He's proven he's got stamina in abundance and the step up in trip at Epsom should suit him. I've been on the phone to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and he was pleased, so as long as the horse comes out of it fit and well, that (Epsom) is the obvious place to go."

One Ruler (40/1)

Charlie Appleby also confirmed Hurricane Lane is likely to be joined at Epsom by stablemate One Ruler following his sixth-placed finish in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

He added: "He'll go straight for the Derby. He's come out of the Guineas well and we toyed with whether to run him in the Dante, but it has always been Hurricane Lane's plan, so we felt we'd go straight to Epsom with him."

High Definition (6/1)

Aidan O'Brien was pleased with High Definition's third place in the Dante Stakes, behind Hurricane Lane and Megallan.

"We were very happy with our horse and we were obviously delighted to get the run into him," said O'Brien - who still houses the Epsom market leader in the shape of Bolshoi Ballet, the impressive winner of the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

"Three or four days before the Dante, we didn't think we were going to get a run into him, so we had to be delighted.

"He seems to be in good form since he's come home. He was doing all his best work late on, so you'd think he'd have no problem getting further.

"We never decide who is going to run in the Derby until about 10 days or two weeks after they've run, then we'll decide.

"Obviously we'll see how he is, but we were happy with the run and he's been happy since he's been home so far."

Bolshoi Ballet (7/4)

Aidan O'Brien's Bolshoi Ballet is the Epsom favourite after his colt put up an impressive performance to dispose of the opposition in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes by upwards of six lengths.

Bolshoi Ballet thrust himself centre stage - justifying his even-money starting price at Leopardstown with a stylish success from stablemate Lough Derg.

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Ryan Moore tracked big outsider Wexford Soil in the early stages of the Group Three, before taking over with three furlongs to run and quickly scooting clear with a quarter of a mile to run.

The outcome was instantly beyond doubt, and the even-money favourite crossed the line six lengths clear of his vain pursuers, led by Lough Derg.

He said of Bolshoi Ballet: "He's very uncomplicated, quickens, relaxes.

"We always loved him. We are delighted with that and we couldn't have asked for any more from him."

Adayar (33/1)

Stablemate to El Drama, Third Realm claimed the Lingfield's Novibet Derby Trial, skipping clear to beat the well-regarded Adayar.

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Ridden with restraint for much of the near mile-and-a-half journey by David Egan, 14-1 shot Third Realm was switched wide to mount his challenge rounding the home turn and quickly reeled in the leaders.

The giant 6-5 favourite Adayar did his best to close the gap, but Egan always looked in control en route to a length-and-a-quarter success.

Youth Spirit (20/1)

Andrew Balding's Youth Spirit caused a minor upset with a clear-cut victory in the Chester Vase.

Blue Riband Trial winner Wirko was the 6/4 favourite to cement his Epsom claims for Charlie Appleby, while Law Of The Sea - already a dual winner this year - also carried the Godolphin colours for John and Thady Gosden.

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Wirko cut out much of the running under William Buick, but was a spent force before the home turn, at which stage Fancy Man looked the most likely winner when sweeping to the front.

However, while his effort was ultimately short lived, Youth Spirit - fourth in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago - finished with gusto under Tom Marquand to prevail by a length and three-quarters.

Sandhurst was one of the first off the bridle, but boxed on well to beat Fancy Man to the runner-up spot.