By Andrew Caulfield
Back in April 2009, I began a TDN article on the G3 Greenham S. winner Vocalised by saying that:
“Jim Bolger isn’t a trainer hidebound by convention. For a start, he subscribes to the rather old-fashioned theory that racehorses are meant to race frequently if they are fit and well. What’s more, he’s prepared to give his horses every opportunity to shine at two, even if their pedigrees are more suggestive of excellence at three.
“And Bolger isn’t unduly influenced by pedigree. While some Europeans would naturally be wary of American stallions which proved themselves on dirt and are largely untried in Europe, Bolger has become the first man to train European group winners by Distorted Humor, Congaree and Vindication.”
The Vindication group winner was Vocalised, whose name cropped up once again two days ago when his son Verbal Dexterity proved too strong for the favourite Beckford in the G1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National S. And who trains Verbal Dexterity? Needless to say, the answer is Jim Bolger, who is also named alongside John Corcoran as the colt’s breeder. The colt’s owner? Mrs J. S. Bolger.
Bolger, of course, is no stranger to success in the National S. He trained Galileo’s sons Teofilo and New Approach to win the 2006 and 2007 editions and New Approach’s son Dawn Approach to score in 2012. These fashionably-bred colts (two of them bred by one J.S. Bolger) were all unbeaten at two and all three went on to top the European 2-year-old classifications. Two of the three went on to Classic success, so we need to listen carefully to Bolger’s assertion that Verbal Dexterity is “as good as any of the 2-year-olds I’ve had.”
Verbal Dexterity isn’t unbeaten, but his record is the next-best thing. He was so impressive in cruising home nearly 10 lengths clear in a seven-furlong maiden race at The Curragh in June that he was named a ‘TDN Rising Star’. Dropping him back to six furlongs three weeks later for the G2 Railway S. resulted in defeat, when Beckford proved too fast in the final furlong. Bolger blames himself (and the shorter distance) for that defeat and the positions were reversed when the two colts met again over an extra furlong in the National S. This time Verbal Dexterity stayed on strongly to beat his sprint-bred opponent by more than three lengths.
Verbal Dexterity’s task was made easier by the withdrawal of Gustav Klimt, the predicted odds-on favourite, and his time was .39 seconds slower than Magical’s in the G1 Moyglare Stud S. Even so, Bolger was very bullish about his colt’s performance, predicting that he may well have another champion 2-year-old on his hands.
Verbal Dexterity has already achieved more than his sire Vocalised, whose career petered out after a very pleasing start. Having recorded his third consecutive success from four starts when he defeated Cityscape in the Greenham S., Vocalised stretched his winning sequence to four in the G3 Tetrarch S. His achievements were all the more creditable in view of the fact that he didn’t reach his actual third birthday until May 30.
In typical Bolger fashion, Vocalised was back in action six days after the Tetrarch, when he was one of the leading fancies for the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains, but he never got into the race. Bolger gave him time to recover after this disappointing effort but a three-month rest failed to rekindle his form, He never managed to finish closer than fourth in four further starts at three and four.
One noticeable feature of Vocalised’s career was that his winning sequence came on ground ranging from yielding to heavy and he was never asked to race on ground faster than good. This may be significant, as Verbal Dexterity’s wins have come on distinctly soft ground, while his defeat was on ground which Timeform categorised as good. Maybe the faster ground simply accentuated the fact that six furlongs was already too sharp for Verbal Dexterity.
When Vocalised racing career ended, he hadn’t done enough to attract serious interest from Irish stallion farms. Most Irish breeders demand a Group 1 win on the C.V., or a string of stakes victories over sprint distances at two. Vocalised, though, had won nothing more important than a pair of Group 3s.
There were also two ways of looking at his pedigree. On the plus side, his pedigree was free of those ubiquitous names Sadler’s Wells and Danzig. Less likely to encourage support was his sire Vindication. After all, this winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on dirt had managed only four starts, all at two years. Vindication also carried the burden, from a European viewpoint, of being a son of Seattle Slew.
In my profile of Vocalised, I pointed out that sons of Seattle Slew had been represented by more than 160 North American graded winners, whereas they had only around a dozen group winners in Europe. Indeed Vindication was only the sixth stallion son to hit the group-race target in Europe, following Seattle Song, Slew o’ Gold, A.P. Indy, Fast Play and Capote.
As Bolger once told the TDN, “nobody was beating a path to my door in this part of the world because the Bold Ruler line doesn’t go down well in Europe. I decided to hold onto him [Vocalised] and I sent some mares to him.”
Vocalised, who raced for the partnership of Mrs J.S. Bolger and John Corcoran, had cost 560,000 dollars as a yearling. This substantial price reflected the colt’s illustrious female line. His second dam is that terrific filly Serena’s Song, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1995. This daughter of Rahy built career figures of 38-18-11-3, as well as earnings in excess of $3.2 million. Despite this demanding career, Serena’s Song produced Sophisticat (G1 Coronation S.) and her brother Grand Reward (GII Oaklawn H.), as well as Vocalised’s stakes-winning dam Serena’s Tune. Vocalised’s half-sister Serena’s Cat has added to the family’s reputation by producing Honor Code, 2015’s American Champion Older Male. As Honor Code is by A.P. Indy, he is bred along similar lines to Vocalised.
Vocalised was therefore given his chance at Bolger’s Redmondstown Stud. He covered 36 mares in his first season in 2011, which means his eldest progeny are five years old. His book of mares over the next four years stood at 54, 37, 67 and 74, with Verbal Dexterity’s dam Lonrach being among the 67 mares in 2014 and the 74 mares in 2015 (when she conceived a sister to the National S. winner). A glance at the list of those 74 mares highlights how much faith Bolger has in Vocalised. Of the 64 which produced live foals, J.S. Bolger is the registered owner of 47 of them, and several others are owned in partnership or by other members of the Bolger family.
So far he has been rewarded with the likes of the dual G3 Irish winner Steip Amach, who went on to be Group 1 placed after being sold to France; Vociferous Marina, winner of the Listed Salsabil S. earlier this year; Sometimesadiamond, a recent third in the G3 Flame of Tara S.; and the progressive juvenile Warm The Voice, who won his third consecutive race at Listowel on Monday off a mark of 92 and could head next to the G2 Beresford S., according to his trainer, the former Bolger assistant Brendan Duke.
A couple of these are out of daughters of Galileo, and Verbal Dexterity has a Galileo mare–the listed-placed Luminous One–as his second dam. As they might say on EastEnders, this family has got previous with Galileo. Verbal Dexterity’s fourth dam, the Classic-placed Fanghorn, is also the fifth dam of Galileo’s G1 Irish Derby winner Soldier of Fortune (and his group-winning brother Heliostatic).
The colt’s third dam, the dual listed winner Smaoineamh, also ranks as the second dam of several smart performers by Galileo, including the Classic-placed duo Cuis Ghaire and Gile Na Greine. Smaoineamh’s numerous black-type descendants also include a couple of stakes winners by Teofilo, including the Group 3 winner Tobann.
Fanghorn made her mark principally by producing the champion sprinter Double Form. Fanghorn’s granddaughter Guess Again had two foals by Double Schwartz which were inbred 3 x 3 to Fanghorn. Jim Bolger trained the first, Cois Na Tine, to become a Group 3 2-year-old winner and the second, Eva Luna, to take the G1 Phoenix S. and four other races on her way to the title of champion juvenile filly in Ireland in 1994. Now there could be another champion 2-year-old in the making.