04/14/2003 12:00AM

Balestrini takes Ballysax at 33-1


The unheralded Balestrini pulled off a 33-1 upset in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on Sunday, as his odds-on Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate, Alberto Giacometti, struggled to a third-place finish in the 1 1/4-mile Ballysax, a prep for the Epsom Derby.

This was O'Brien's third straight win in the Ballysax. The winner of the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in November, Alberto Giacometti weakened a furlong out to be beaten 5 1/2 lengths as Balestrini held off the late challenge of the 5-4 (1.25-1) Alamshar by a half-length.

Balestrini led throughout, but it was Alamshar who earned most of the post-race raves. Winner of the one-mile Group 3 Beresford Stakes in October, Alamshar, trained by John Oxx, is now the 7-1 second choice for the Epsom Derby. Another O'Brien trainee, Brian Boru, remains the 4-1 favorite.

* In the listed Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial, Refuse to Bend was the half-length winner over Good Day Too. Unbeaten after three races, the Dermot Weld-trained Refuse to Bend is considered more of a Derby horse than one for the 2000 Guineas.

* Saturday at Newbury, Muqbil (5-1) was a 1 1/4-length winner over Zafeen in the Group 3 Greenham Stakes. He will now go to Newmarket for the 2000 Guineas on May 4. Elusive City, the 2-1 choice, missed the break, sped to the lead at the quarter pole, but weakened to finish fifth and will now be pointed to sprint races.