Bolger savours 'greatest day' with Trading's Curragh coup
Jim Bolger secured his second Irish Derby courtesy of Trading Leather's brilliant triumph under Kevin Manning in Saturday's Dubai Duty Free-sponsored edition at the Curragh.
A less emphatic victory than that of Bolger's St Jovite in 1992, it marked the end of Coolmore's run of eight wins in the €1.25m Classic. Beforehand, there was plenty respect for Ballydoyle's decision to target the race selectively and announce as much at an early remove.
The hope now is that policy will continue to be adopted, for the race needs real competition and variety if it is to properly regain its former glory and appeal to the race-going public. Derby day attendance was up five per cent on last year to 23,407.
That is obviously good news, but, when you compare the balmy weather to last year's washout, and add in that a clash with Kildare's Leinster football match against Dublin had been averted and that all the marquee names were already out of the Irish Open, a five per cent increase would be a minimum projection.
With the Epsom hero Ruler Of The World well held in fifth, doubts surround the veracity of Saturday's form. That is underlined by the close proximity of the third Festive Cheer and fourth Cap O'Rushes, rank outsiders and second strings from their respective elite stables.
The 109-rated Festive Cheer, beaten out of sight at Epsom, had a solitary Dundalk maiden win to his name from four starts, and Cap O'Rushes was fourth in a Royal Ascot handicap off a mark of 95. Ruler Of The World, which the handicappers rated the worst Derby winner of the century when allotting him a mark of 120, was six lengths behind the latter in fifth.
Still, only St Jovite and Galileo can top Trading Leather's time of 2 mins 27.17secs. After Epsom, Ruler Of The World appealed as being progressive, and the suspicion remains that Saturday's turn is not an accurate reflection of his ability.
He got in a lather in the preliminaries, and it may be that his rapid evolution has taken its toll. Remember, he never raced before April, so it understandable that he might have boiled over.
The supplemented Libertarian also capitulated on Saturday having been purchased by Sheikh Mohammed for a reputed seven-figure sum, so the soundest yardstick is surely Galileo Rock.
There is no reason to believe that David Wachman's white-faced chestnut didn't run his race, which saw him foiled by an almost identical margin as he had been at Epsom. Besides, Trading Leather's profile hardly lacked promise. Second to Libertarian in the Dante, he was third to Magician in the Irish 2,000 Guineas before winning a 10-furlong Listed race.
When you factor in his smart time, then, you'd have to conclude that he is as good a middle-distance three-year-old as there is around. A bit like last year, though, it is beginning to look like the overall standard is more ordinary than out of the ordinary.
Trading Leather's stablemate Dawn Approach is obviously of the highest order at a mile. He is due to tackle his elders for a first time in Goodwood's Sussex Stakes after Bolger revealed that he is keen to go there before the Prix Jacques Le Marois in August.
The Coolcullen wizard has nominated the King George at Ascot as Trading Leather's target, so both of those races will give us a more tangible handle on the Classic generation's rank.
Right now, though, that will be of little concern to Bolger, whose incredible reinvention as an owner-breeder-trainer nonpareil continues apace. He not only owns and bred Trading Leather along with his wife Jackie, he also bred his sire Teofilo and grand-dam Speirbhean.
Of course, Manning, at his unfussy best on Saturday, is also married to Bolger's daughter, Una. All told, then, it's no wonder that the remarkable 71-year-old handler described it as "probably his best day in racing", to which he might have reasonably added – yet.
CAMELOT FOR SANDOWN &NDASH; OR MAYBE RETIREMENT
On the topic of three-year-old evaluations, Camelot may not get another opportunity to vindicate Aidan O'Brien's autumn assertion that he is the best horse he has trained, as the Ballydoyle trainer revealed that he could be retired rather than tackle Saturday's Eclipse.
Few analysts consider the triple Classic winner to be anything more or less than the pick of a moderate generation, though question marks certainly linger over Encke, the horse that denied him a famous Triple Crown victory in the St Leger and then tested positive for steroids in the off-season.
Vanquished on his first start against his elders in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Camelot subsequently underwent surgery after suffering a bout of colic. He returned with a routine triumph in a Curragh Group Three before getting turned over by Al Kazeem in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, and was again put in his place by Roger Charlton's smart five-year-old at Royal Ascot. While that form is consistent with what many objective observers expected of the Montjeu colt on the basis of the his performances against his peers, O'Brien maintains that he hasn't been right since this time 12 months ago.
"The spark was never there after his run in the Irish Derby," he said. "He had a tough race on testing ground and then had that problem over the winter. Retirement is an option and we are coming to the stage where we have to decide whether to let him stretch or not."
LORDAN SHINES IN
DERBY DAY TREBLE
Wayne Lordan came up just short on Galileo Rock in Saturday's big race, but he still departed with a sparkling 719/1 treble.
The excellent Cork-born rider turned over Jim Bolger's odds-on favourite Intensified aboard Tommy Stack's debutant Tarn (7/1) in the juvenile maiden, and then the David Wachman-trained Sudirman toughed it out under him to deny Big Time in the Group Two Railway Stakes.
Sudirman (5/1) had gotten off the mark at the third time of asking at Leopardstown, while Big Time, trained by Lordan's fellow Upton native John Murphy, had won a decent maiden on its debut at Naas. Both finished well clear of the odds-on Coach House.
Slade Power completed Lordan's treble by justifying 11/4 favouritism in taking style in the Woodies DIY Sapphire Stakes. Eddie Lynam's progressive home-bred sprinter is now likely to join classy stablemate Sole Power – likewise owned by Paddy Power founder David Power and his wife Sabina – in Newmarket's July Cup.
O'BRIEN AND SPENCER OUT OF LUCK IN FRANCE
Aidan O'Brien's Lines Of Battle could manage just eighth in yesterday's Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly, as Richard Hannon's Havana Gold got up late to score by a short neck.
A second Group One winner of the weekend for sire Teofilo after Trading Leather's Irish Derby victory, Havana Gold finished fourth to Magician in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. The Qatar Racing-owned colt stormed home here to deny Andre Fabre's San Marino Grey under Mickael Barzalona, after Jamie Spencer opted to ride the eventual 10th Anna's Pearl instead.
100 – Percentage of the three Group races in Chantilly yesterday that were won by Irish-bred horses, Vedeux and Sparkling Beam scoring either side of Havana Gold.