Sunday 21 January 2018

Classy 'Verbal' has last word for Bolger

Kevin Manning after winning the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes during the Longines Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Kevin Manning after winning the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes during the Longines Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

It was a day rather spoiled by erratic weather and crucial non-runners, the second day of Irish Champions Weekend at an under-renovation Curragh the poor relation of the two-day meet.

A crowd of 5,370 was pretty shocking given the calibre of the racing and the lack of counter-attractions, in contrast to the 13,689 at Leopardstown. However, it was hard not to think of days gone by at this weathered venue as Jim Bolger took the National Stakes with Verbal Dexterity, which owner Jackie Bolger possibly named after her husband (he claims otherwise).

He took advantage of what looked one of the weaker editions of the race and realised a first Group One winner in over two years, the 75-year-old now looking to the future.

The manner in which he crushed the favourite, Beckford, by three-and-a-half lengths after coming off the bridle before the runner-up recalled Teofilo's win in the race and Bolger thinks that the 5/2 winner is right up there talent-wise with both Teofilo and New Approach.

"He's a very good horse. We loved him here the first day and then I got it wrong when I went back to six. He needs the seven even though he has plenty of toe. Seven or a mile is his real cut," said Bolger.

"He handles any ground. I can see him as being champion European two-year-old! He's the real deal. He's as good as any of the two-year-olds I've had. He has a marvellous temperament, great looks. He has everything.


"He's as good as any of the ones that have won the Dewhurst for us. Any of those five. I would think he'll go for the Dewhurst next."

It was a first Group One success for Bolger's own sire Vocalised, which was merely a Group Three winner at the track, and Manning's 35th. Gordon Elliott will now target the Middle Park with Beckford later in the month.

It was a somewhat frustrating weekend for Ryan Moore, whose mount Magical was grabbed on the wire by the Donnacha O'Brien-ridden Happily (13/2) in the Moyglare. The teenager was replacing Wayne Lordan, who lost out after Clemmie was scratched.

"Donnacha gave her a great ride. He was delighted to be on Magical. In all fairness, they never question anything and that was just the way it happened," said the trainer.

"When the other filly didn't run Ryan got on Magical; it's strange the way things happen. I wanted to run Clemmie but I promised if heavy came into the description we wouldn't run."

Moore, memories of his painful defeat 12 months ago perhaps on his mind, took up the running early in the Leger on Order Of St George, which romped home at odds of 2/5. "He's a brilliant horse," said Moore afterwards.

The trainer added: "I'm delighted with him. We know he stays and handles soft ground. He went there strong today.

"His options would be the Melbourne Cup or the Arc. He'd be very comfortable over a mile-and-a-half if there is an ease in the ground."

Perhaps the most popular winner of the day was the well-backed 9/10 Caravaggio in the Flying Five. This represented an easy opportunity for the Scat Daddy colt relative to some of the company he has been keeping, yet his turn of foot under Moore was still quite a sight to behold.

"We wanted to come back here and get the confidence back. He did everything perfect and Ryan gave him a lovely ride," O'Brien said.

"The lads had him lovely and settled at home in the stalls and were very happy. We think he's a great horse. He's relaxed, he quickens, he travels.

"We put the wrong shoes on him at Deauville; he had no traction. He kept swapping and changing, never got into any kind of a gear, like driving a car with the clutch slipping. He has all the options. He obviously has the sprint in Ascot and also America."

After the win of Eziyra on Saturday, Dermot Weld was thankful to have another high-class mare on his hands as Shamreen took the Blandford at 9/1. The manner of how she stamped her authority in the final furlong under Pat Smullen was impressive.

"She's won the race two years running and is a very valuable mare. I think she's entitled to have a crack at a Group One now so the Prix de L'Opera would be a logical target," Weld said.

"She is like Eziyra. They are tough, game, genuine, courageous fillies. Eziyra will go for the Group One fillies and mares at Ascot.

"I'm delighted with the way things are going. I told everybody (my horses) wouldn't be back for Galway and of course nobody believed me."

There were two English-trained winners, Eve Johnson Houghton's 15/2 Ice Age in the Bold Lad Sprint Handicap and 4/1 Snazzy Jazzy taking the lucrative sales race for Clive Cox.

Bolger had a magnificent end to the day when Rory Cleary dictated aboard his boss's Panstarr to take the finale at 8/1.

This was a superb ride from Cleary, hailed by Bolger as "a star" and capped off a fine day for the Co Wexford native, who also expressed is happiness that Davy Fitzgerald will remain on as the Model County's hurling boss next year.

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