Saturday 16 December 2017

Approach testament to Bolger's greatness

There may yet be another twist to the Flat season, but, from an Irish angle, Dawn Approach's swansong at Newmarket was about as cheery a finale as we are likely to get.

What a horse this fellow is. From the day he provided his sire New Approach with his first winner from his first runner at the Curragh on the opening day of the season, the chestnut has repeatedly displayed all the qualities that are so often lacking in top-class Flat horses at the expense of fleeting precocity -- in a word, mettle.

Seven months on, the durable youngster ground out his sixth win on the spin and a second successive Group One. Now as low as 7/2 to win the 2,000 Guineas next year, he exhibits an understated brilliance, really only coming into his own when serious questions are asked.

In this respect, he reminds you of his sire, but the horse that invariably comes to mind when you see the way he goes about his business is the teak-tough Giant's Causeway, one of those former Ballydoyle superstars whose achievements seem inexplicably slighted by Aidan O'Brien's insistence that Camelot is the best horse he has trained.

To an extent, as the public face of a global breeding empire, O'Brien's tendency to speak in such absolute terms about valuable stallion prospects is understandable -- it is expected of him.

Bolger's situation is different. The son of a Wexford farmer -- just like O'Brien -- the Coolcullen maestro's empire is entirely of his own making, and he is beholden to no one. It was the late '70s and early '80s when he first displayed the vision to disrupt the established order on the Flat, but the manner in which he has reinvented and reconstructed his Coolcullen franchise is even more remarkable.

Effectively squeezed out of the yearling markets by the muscle of the likes of Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed, Bolger began breeding his own stars, as much by necessity as out of any innovative instinct. The results have been sensational, on and off the track.

Of the five Dewhurst winners that he has saddled since 2006, he has bred three -- Teofilo, Parish Hall and Dawn Approach -- and it's not insignificant that he also trained the dams of the other two, New Approach and Intense Focus. Unbelievably, he was also responsible for Saturday's runner-up Leitir Mor, another that he bred.

Much of this homegrown talent is sold along with others -- such as Banimpire, which he bought as a yearling for €52,000 and sold two years later for €2.3m -- at a huge profit on the strength of their feats. As Bolger says, that helps to keep his 100-plus staff in work, and one man who soon identified the strategic prowess of his reinvigoration is Sheikh Mohammed.

Not only has the Sheikh's faith in Bolger's produce already yielded an Epsom Derby winner in New Approach, but it is also giving the Dubai prince the power in the breeding sector to compete with Coolmore, something that eluded him for so long.

Remember, not only is Dawn Approach by New Approach, but Parish Hall is by Teofilo. While still lacking a marquee stallion of Galileo's ilk, the Sheikh's Darley and Kildangan Studs are evolving apace, as is the man himself.

Where once New Approach and Dawn Approach would have been whisked off to either of his two flagship stables for their respective Classic campaigns, his softening of that policy is yielding lucrative results.

It augured well that Dawn Approach would stay put in Carlow when, in an unprecedented turn, he was issued Godolphin's royal blue silks. Sheikh Mohammed confirmed as much and, when asked about the decision, he replied: "Sometimes we change."

He might easily have been talking about the 70-year-old winning handler, a man who, pound for pound, might just be the best trainer of a racehorse in the country.

Roll on the Guineas.

Leather trading well in Epsom Derby market

On a day when there were 18 Irish-trained runners at Newmarket, Trading Leather ensured that Jim Bolger left with a brace by recording an authoritative victory in the Group Three Autumn Stakes.

Yet another exciting colt by Teofilo, Trading Leather prevailed by three parts of a length under Kevin Manning to justify 5/2 joint-favouritism, and was trimmed to as low as 12/1 by one firm for next year's Epsom Derby.

Few of the remaining raiders landed a blow, Ballydoyle's I Have A Dream faring best of four in the Cesarewitch, finishing fifth behind Aaim To Prosper.

The first horse to win the race twice -- adding the 2012 race to the 2010 victory -- Aaim To Prosper is trained by Limerick native Brian Meehan and was ridden by Kieren Fallon.

Camelot on the mend after minor surgery

Having undergone surgery to treat a bout of colic, Aidan O'Brien's triple Classic winner Camelot is expected to be fit to resume racing next term.

"Camelot has arrived at Coolmore from Fethard Veterinary Hospital and is in good shape. He is expected to return to training for 2013," a statement from the stud said.

No luck for Irish in Czech showpiece

Willie Mullins' Uncle Junior and Enda Bolger's Doctor Pat failed to figure in the Czech Republic's equivalent of the Aintree Grand National, the Velka Pardubicke.

Uncle Junior eventually finished a long way back in sixth, just ahead of Doctor Pat in the four-and-a-quarter-mile test which was won by locally-trained mare Orphee Des Blins.

Cooper and Hughes make mark with Maree

Raz De Maree responded well to Bryan Cooper's urgings to run out a convincing winner of the Munster National at Limerick.

Backed from a morning show of 14/1 into 7/1, the seven-year-old led on the run to the last fence before scoring by six and a half lengths.

"That's my first time winning the race," trainer Dessie Hughes said.

"We were hoping there would be a good three-mile chase in him as he stays so well. He's small, but he's a good 'lepper' -- the Troytown is a possibility."


4 days between Dont Tell Pa's victories at Tramore and Limerick. Trained by Jimmy Mangan, the 4/1 shot made light of a 6lb penalty to score under the trainer's daughter Jane in the two-and-a-quarter-mile handicap hurdle.


@donaldmccain -- think I might need to look for a new stable jockey soon! That Jason Maguire is made for Mark Johnston #flatrat

-- Don McCain after Jason Maguire excelled in driving Johnston's Tartan Jura to victory in the jump jockeys' race at Goodwood.

Irish Independent

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