PIZ Badile laid down the first marker of the season with the Derbys by winning the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes with a strong performance on the clock to provide Donnacha O’Brien and Gavin Ryan with a double on Leopardstown’s Trials Day.

The son of Ulysses was not to be denied late on as Ryan made best use of his prominent position turning for home before the partnership fought back bravely to deny Buckaroo in the fastest time-figure of the day when adjusted for distance.

Piz Badile (112+) covered the ground from the three-furlong marker in 37.2secs compared to Buckaroo (112+) who stopped the clock at 36.45secs, confirming the visual impression that Joseph O’Brien’s colt quickened sharply to head the winner momentarily. However, I was also left with the impression the younger brother’s colt was idling before battle commenced and it was more about the winner rallying than his opponent’s challenge faltering.

Derby credentials

The duo’s Derby credentials will face a sterner examination in the Derrinstown Derby trial although it is not beyond possibility either or both can step forward again, especially as both trainers expect a degree of improvement from their respective colts.

The sectional data suggests Buckaroo is the speedier and he no doubt covered more ground than the winner as he was forced wide into the straight. I would lean towards him if the pair meet again in May over the same course and distance.

Duke De Sessa (104) was hampered by Buckaroo at a vital stage and, although eventually beaten further than he was inconvenienced, his trainer Dermot Weld expressed the view the son of Lope De Vega will improve for the run.

As an opening salvo for the middle-distance colt contests ahead in the summer this sets the bar at Derby qualification level.