2021 Epsom Derby horse race betting preview and predictions: Will Bolshoi Ballet hit the big time?

General view as the track gets watered at Belmont Park.
Photo of Andrew Wilsher

Andrew Wilsher

Horse Racing· 3 months ago

Show Bio

Editor of Pickswise. Born and raised in jolly old London, England, with an undying love for the NFL, NBA, soccer, and horse racing. A big-time sports bettor who loves futures markets and backing underdogs. Long-suffering New York Jets fan.

Much like Authentic in the 2020 Kentucky Derby, the betting for the 2021 Epsom Derby will revolve around just one horse: Bolshoi Ballet.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt shot to the head of the market after impressive victories in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes and Group 2 Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown in April and May respectively. Where others have fallen this season, Bolshoi Ballet has answered every call.

Such is the confidence in the half-brother of Irish St Leger third Southern France that O’Brien relies on him to bring the prestigious prize back across the Irish Sea. Nine entries at the confirmation stage turned into just one — second favorite High Definition and 14-1 chance Van Gogh were scratched.

The significance of that is heightened by the fact that O’Brien, who has won this race a record eight times since Galileo (the sire of Bolshoi Ballet) romped home in 2001, hasn’t saddled just one runner in the Epsom Derby since 2004.

His Derrinstown success was not just an impressive visual performance but also a brilliant ride from four-time Breeders’ Cup Turf-winning jockey Ryan Moore. The 37-year-old took over on Bolshoi Ballet turning for home on a track that had a notable speed bias and wasn’t for catching.

The reopposing Mac Swiney and Southern Lights were seven and nine lengths behind at the wire. Epsom requires different talents and characteristics and Bolshoi Ballet isn’t sure to confirm the form with the pair — especially after Mac Swiney proved his worth on his second run off the layoff in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Stepping up to a mile and a half may suit Mac Swiney better than the chalk. He hit the line powerfully with quickening closing sectionals over a mile and is bred to win the Epsom Derby being by 2008 hero New Approach.

Hurricane Lane ready for whirlwind effort

The best of the British runners could be Hurricane Lane, winner of the Dante Stakes at York, the premier trial for the Epsom Derby. Unbeaten after three starts for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby, there is little not to like about his profile. However, the heavy-set son of Frankel has question marks to answer about the track. Agility and nimbleness are required on Epsom’s unique Downs.

Lingfield Derby Trial winner Third Realm also comes into the race being slightly overlooked despite fending off the reopposing Adayer with a strong-staying effort last month. His ability to find full stride on a downhill track will aid his cause and after just three runs, he’s open to far more improvement than most. There is every chance that he’s an underlay at around 12-1.

Will John Leeper make the leap of faith?

Priced up on potential rather than rock-solid form are Mohaafeth and John Leeper — though that is not to say that they don’t have the talent this early in their careers to win.

The former represents trainer William Haggas and Shadwell Stud, connections that are regularly seen entering the winner’s circle after featured Group races. Mohaafeth has improved significantly since being sent over a mile and a quarter this season and produced an A+ performance to win without coming off the bridle at Newmarket last time.

John Leeper’s last-time-out success was very similar, but he made it harder for himself by racing rank throughout the early stages. The tendency to give his rider trouble may see his stamina fade away down the hill, but if there’s one rider you want aboard to get him to settle it is Frankie Dettori.

The Epsom Derby is the truest test of a three-year-old champion on turf. Who will enter the record books on Saturday? The market says Bolshoi Ballet but there is every reason to oppose him at the prices in what appears to be a deep race.

Make sure you also read our picks and betting preview for the Belmont Stakes!

Pickswise offers free daily Horse Racing Picks from across America. Get expert Horse Racing Picks from expert handicappers today.

See All
Caesars Sportsbook

$5,000

Get a $5,000 Risk Free Bet + a free NFL Jersey!

Register for a new Caesars Sportsbook account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $5,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $5,000 + a free NFL Jersey

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

BetMGM

$200

Bet $10, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new BetMGM account & deposit $20+

Bet $10 on your team to win Money Line

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

PointsBet

$200

Bet $20, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit $20+

Bet $20 on your team to win Money Line (NFL or NCAAF)

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

FanDuel Sportsbook

$150

Bet $5, Win $150 in cash if the Cowboys or Eagles win!

Bet $5 on the Cowboys or Eagles to win

Win $150 in CASH if your team wins!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account to claim

Must be 21+ to play. Full terms available at FanDuel Sportsbook.

DraftKings

$200

Bet $1 On Any NFL Football Game & Get $150 In Free Bets Instantly!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Bet $1 on any Pro Football game

Instantly get $150 in free bets

BetRivers

$250

Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

TVG

$300

Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

BetAmerica Racing

$200

$200 Sign Up Bonus!

Fast, reliable and fast payouts - you'll have your money in 72 hours, if not sooner!

Proud history of providing safe, secure, and fun betting to American patrons

BetAmerica is owned by the iconic Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of 150 years of wagering history and the world-famous Kentucky Derby

Players who sign up using ‘BET200’ code will get a $200 sign up bonus. Offer valid for 7 days after registering on BetAmerica Racing product only. 21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$200

Get a $200 Sign Up Bonus with TwinSpires Racebook!

Register for a new Twinspires account using offer code BET200

Make a deposit and start wagering on horse racing

Earn $100 in bonus cash for every $400 wagered!

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.