Leather ends Bolger wait
Dawn Approach may never see a race over a mile and a half again, but the Bolger operation need not be concerned after Trading Leather's comprehensive victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh last evening.
The win provided Jim Bolger with his first triumph in the race since St Jovite dominated his opponents 21 years ago, and gave jockey Kevin Manning his first ever win in his local Derby.
The race was expected all along to be run at a generous pace, but the two outsiders ensured with their furious approach there would be no hiding place. With the 100/1 outsider Ralston Road and the Godolphin pacemaker Cap O'Rushes tearing off ahead, Manning was content to sit third at the front of the main pack in patient pursuit on Trading Leather. He began to make his move off the home turn and, as he closed down the hare and the hound at the two-furlong pole, it was apparent that he was the one on the horse as others around him to varying degrees were struggling to mount a challenge.
Indeed Manning afterwards admitted that his greatest fear at this point was "getting to the front too soon. I felt I might just be vulnerable as I didn't know much about what was going on behind".
If he had, would have realised that the two favourites – Ruler Of The World and Libertarian (first and second at Epsom) – had both left their A-Game at home as both were treading water from a disturbingly early stage.
It is perhaps ironic that the two horses that changed hands for significant Middle Eastern sums on the run-up to the Derby (Libertarian and Sugar Boy) ultimately filled the final two finishing positions in the race.
Contrast that with the fact that Jim Bolger owns (at least wife Jackie does), trains and bred the winner, as well as having bred the sire and the dam of the winner which was ridden by his son-in-law, and it's easy to understand why Bolger might jest afterwards that he expects to hear from the Monopolies Commission.
Bolger reckoned in the afterglow that this was the undoubted highlight of his long and already illustrious career and that it was followed in close second by the victory of Dawn Approach at Ascot last week. His wife claimed that Jim had promised one day he would train her a Derby winner in her colours. The trainer brought a more accurate clarification to this, declaring "what she really meant was if I do get a horse that can win a Derby that I wouldn't sell him on".
Reflecting on the underperformance of the favourite, Aidan O'Brien – whose streak of seven consecutive Irish Derbies was halted – underlined that Ruler Of The World had become "edgy beforehand" and iterated how "having his fourth run in such a short time" was possibly a bridge too far. In addition, son Joseph intimated that the favourite might not have fully seen out the trip at the Curragh and may (after a break) drop back to a mile and a quarter on his next trip.
Third at Epsom, Galileo Rock at least upheld that form by finishing second yesterday, and trainer David Wachman was delighted with the effort.
"He ran well. The winner won well but we made of a race of it and I'm very happy with that," he said. "He's definitely stepped forward (from Epsom). These three-year-olds need to step forward through the year and he'll need to step forward again from here. Jim's horse travelled particularly well, we stayed on but I think the winner won with a bit up his sleeve."
Asked whether Galileo Rock could be targeted at the St Leger, Wachman said: "He'll be in it, we'll see nearer the time. Good ground is essential and I think he'll really come into his own as a four-year-old."
Galileo Rock was ridden by Wayne Lordan, who might not have quite made it in the Derby, but had already ridden a treble on the card by that stage. Opening affairs for the day at the Curragh was a timely (if not unique) reminder that there is no such thing as a certainty in racing when the Bolger-trained Intensified got turned over at odds of 1/5.
Having run up against Royal Ascot's Coventry protagonists War Command and Sir John Hawkins in his only two racecourse starts to date, a six-runner maiden may have appeared a formality. However, having led briefly at the furlong pole, the son of Dewhurst winner Intense Focus was quickly overhauled by Tommy Stack's newcomer Tarn.
The winning filly won quite comfortably and, based on this, could easily make her mark in a higher grade. Winning rider Wayne Lordan said afterwards: "She had been working well at home. Coming here we probably thought we would be second, but she travelled well and then picked up well. She did today what she showed us at home."
There was, however, even worse to follow in the two-year-old department for favourite backers and – on this occasion – for direct Royal Ascot form. The Ballydoyle-trained Coach House had only found No Nay Never too fast in the Norfolk (hardly an insult as he lowered the two-year-old course record in the process) and was made odds-on to regain the winning thread in the Railway Stakes and provide Aidan O'Brien with a remarkable 12th win in the race.
However, forfeiting his early position from an inside draw, Coach House was forced to challenge widest of all and, in truth, never looked like landing a blow as Sudirman and Big Time settled down to fight out the finish, with the former staying on just the better. This provided Lordan with his second winner of the evening, but there was even better to follow in the Sapphire Stakes as Slade Power had too much for his rivals in the closing stages to compensate for two unlucky runs so far this term in this Group Three.
Edward Lynam's four-year-old is obviously extremely versatile as, after runs in the Greenland at the Curragh and the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot, he had speed enough to drop back to five furlongs for this dash on quick ground. The trainer now has an eye on the July Cup after this, commenting: "We'll have a look at the July Cup now. We're in the very fortunate position to have two horses good enough to run in it."