Racing Review of the Year: Part 2  


Mac Swiney was the highlight of a successful season for Jm Bolger as trainer and breeder |


The Juveniles

The dark clouds had gathered come Ireland's opening turf fixture of the year at Naas in March, with the meeting held behind closed doors and giving rise to now customary scenes. As the curtain was raised, an oft-repeated sketch unfolded with Jim Bolger homebred Poetic Flare (Ire) (Dawn Approach {Ire}) annexing the first juvenile event of the year, a feat which the trainer had previously achieved on multiple occasions including with Poetic Flare's sire in 2012. Normal service resumed but, then again, not. The global pandemic soon tightened its grip and a wide-ranging lockdown left much of Europe at a standstill, Scandinavia being a notable exception, until Germany set the powerhouses rolling again in May.

Germany doesn't schedule early juvenile contests as a matter of course and so France led the way in that sphere. Haras de la Gousserie and Guy Pariente's Sealiway (Fr) (Galiway {GB}) registered a comfortable two-length score over six furlongs at Saint-Cloud in the first such event as the season, belatedly, geared up once more. He'd go on to claim an emphatic eight-length tally in ParisLongchamp's G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc day before posting a commendable fifth in Keeneland's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. One day later, Haras de Colleville-based Goken (Fr) (Kendargent {Fr}) became Europe's first freshman sire off the mark when subsequent Listed Prix La Fleche and G3 Prix du Bois victrix Livachope (Fr) annexed a five-furlong dash at Chantilly.

Fellow freshmen Dariyan (Fr) and Bow Creek (Ire), both sons of Shamardal, followed suit at Lyon-Parilly and Baden-Baden, respectively, before the year's breakout star Mehmas (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) notched a quickfire double in early June. Bridge Dress Me (Ire) became the Tally-Ho Stud resident's first-of-many at Rome's Capanelle venue and fellow Goffs graduate Muker (Ire) repeated the dose, within the hour, at Newcastle. Chemeh (Ire)'s Boxing Day victory over 8 1/2 furlongs at Siracusa extended his European record haul to an astounding 56 individual first-crop winners for the shortened season.

The usual run to early June heralds last calls for Royal Ascot preparations, but this year became the hunting ground for gameday time and many heats were oversubscribed and primed for splitting. In a welcome move, the Royal meeting's 2-year-old contests were scheduled for the latter part of a subdued week and opportunity knocked in the Listed Windsor Castle S. for The Queen's Tactical (GB) (Toronado {Ire}), who added Newmarket's G2 July S. before finishing off the board in three starts at the highest level. Listed Chesham S. victor Battleground (War Front), the first foal out of Arc heroine Found (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Ballydoyle's lone juvenile success of the week, fared better in the aftermath by annexing Goodwood's G2 Vintage S. in some style and running second in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Dandalla (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}), another Karl Burke diamond mined for little outlay, produced the younger generation's best Royal performance with a six-length G3 Albany S. win, doubling up in Newmarket's G2 Duchess of Cambridge S. and closing her campaign with a G1 Cheveley Park S. fifth.

“I think he'd look better running in someone else's silks,” joked trainer Michael Bell after The Lir Jet (Ire) (Prince of Lir {Ire}) provided his Ballyhane Stud freshman with a first winner in the process of lowering the all-aged track record at Great Yarmouth at the beginning of June. He franked that form and emulated his sire's 2016 G2 Norfolk S. success, doing so in the Qatar Racing colours second time out. Runner-up finishes in the G2 Prix Robert Papin and G1 Phoenix S. followed and preceded off-the-board efforts in the G1 Middle Park S. and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

Frequent flyer Wesley Ward is usually outta there come former 'Heath Day', but his enforced delay was rewarded with a fourth renewal of the G2 Queen Mary S. when Stonestreet Stables' Campanelle (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) backed up a Gulfstream Park debut score in the five-furlong dash. She also annexed Deauville's G1 Prix Morny and closed out the year with a fourth in Keeneland's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Marie McCartan's Nando Parrado (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) had given little indication of future highs when a debut fifth at Newmarket earlier in the month and outstripped that form, and then some, by claiming G2 Coventry S. glory at the meeting's new record high odds of 150-1. Tried at the highest level in two subsequent starts, he ran second to Campanelle in the G1 Prix Morny and then to Sealiway in the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.

Royal Ascot winners claimed three of the six Newmarket July and Glorious Goodwood juvenile fixtures, with outliers headed by subsequent G1 Vincent O'Brien National S. fourth Master of the Seas (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) in the G2 Superlative S. at HQ and subsequent G1 Middle Park S. hero Supremacy (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) making all in the G2 Richmond S. at Goodwood.

Richard Hannon trainee Ventura Tormenta (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) tarnished The Lir Jet's record in the G2 Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly while Laws of Indices (Ire) (Power {GB}) subdued Lucky Vega (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}) in the G2 Railway S. at The Curragh. Lucky Vega exacted revenge, three weeks later, in the G1 Phoenix S. over the same six-furlong course and distance. The Co. Kildare venue also played host to a hot renewal of August's G2 Futurity S., which went the way of Jim Bolger's newest standardbearer Mac Swiney (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) at the expense of subsequent G2 Golden Fleece S. winner Cadillac (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}) and Golden Fleece runner-up and G1 Criterium International hero Van Gogh (American Pharoah).

Other August highlights include the G3 Acomb S. win of subsequent G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud victor Gear Up (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}); the G2 Gimcrack S. score for subsequent G1 Middle Park S. third Minzaal (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}); the G2 Prix du Calvados victory of subsequent G1 Prix Marcel Boussac unlucky-in-running fourth Fev Rover (Ire) (Gutaifan {Ire}); and the early rounds of the Shale (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) versus Pretty Gorgeous (Fr) (Lawman {Fr}) ding-dong, with the former, trained by Donnacha O'Brien, drawing first blood in the G3 Silver Flash S. and the Joseph O'Brien-trained latter gaining revenge in the G2 Debutante S. at The Curragh. They'd meet again down the line with Shale reasserting in September's G1 Moyglare Stud S. and Pretty Gorgeous levelling up in October's G1 Fillies' Mile.

September presented an informative edition of the G1 Vincent O'Brien National S., with Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez's 'TDN Rising Star' Thunder Moon (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) exhibiting rare acceleration to rise above a hot field featuring subsequent G1 Dewhurst S. first and second St Mark's Basilica (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) and Wembley (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), as well as the aforementioned Master of the Seas, Lucky Vega, Laws of Indices and Mac Swiney. Thunder Moon closed his year with a third in the Dewhurst.

In common with Thunder Moon, Jeff Smith's Alcohol Free (Ire) (No Nay Never) had not appeared until August and backed up a Newbury debut score for the Andrew Balding stable with a second to the battle-hardened dual sales-race winner Happy Romance (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}) in early September's G3 Dick Poole Fillies' S. at Salisbury. She reversed that form at the end of the month when defeating G2 Lowther S. victrix and subsequent GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf third Miss Amulet (Ire) (Sir Prancealot {Ire}) in the G1 Cheveley Park S., with Happy Romance fourth.

Other notable performances during the month included George Strawbridge's 'TDN Rising Star' Indigo Girl (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), a homebred full-sister to G1 British Champions Fillies & Mares heroine Journey (GB), snagging Doncaster's G2 May Hill S. en route to a second in the G1 Fillies' Mile; Michael Pescod's G1 Dewhurst ninth Chindit (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) securing a third G2 Champagne S. for Richard Hannon; and the G2 Beresford S. victory of the hitherto unbeaten 'TDN Rising Star' High Definition (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}).

Suffering just one reversal in her first seven starts, Charley Rossi trainee Tiger Tanaka (Ire) (Clodovil {Ire}) notched a trio of claiming scores in the provinces and scaled the heights when steered by Rossi's partner Jessica Marcialis to a popular success in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac on Arc day. She closed her year with a fourth to Gear Up in the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud later in October. Best of Lips (Ire) (The Gurkha {Ire}), who had saluted in Cologne's G3 Preis des Winterfavoriten, was another left in Gear Up's wake at Saint-Cloud. Elsewhere in Germany, Manfred Schmelzer's Noble Heidi (Fr) (Intello {Ger}) edged Baden-Baden's G3 Preis der Winterkonigin and entered winter quarters having won three of her four races. Sealiway, Pretty Gorgeous, St Mark's Basilica and Van Gogh also enjoyed their elite-level moments during the month, but, with ever-tightening controls coming into force, the season concluded as it began and resumed: under something of a cloud.

However, Jim Bolger trainee Poetic Flare opened up the year in style and was on parade in the final days, winning Leopardstown's G3 Killavullan S. a week before Mac Swiney's G1 Futurity swansong. Thus, Bolger bookended the season with a hint of nostalgia and the Coolcullen maestro once again has a live contender for the Derby. Maybe, just maybe, hope of a return to some form of normality is not forlorn.

Dark Horses

Britain: Michael Tabor's Star Seeking (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}) was a shade testy during the preliminaries when making her debut in a seven-furlong novice fillies' heat at Leicester in September. However, she displayed an impressive turn of foot before being heavily eased for a one-length win in the process of earning 'TDN Rising Star' status. The Sir Michael Stoute trainee, unseen since and light on entries, hails from a family featuring MG1SW sire Linngari (Ire) (Indian Ridge {Ire}), G1 Grand Prix de Paris hero Mont Ormel (Fr) (Air Chief Marshal {Ire}) and 2020's G2 King Edward VII S. and G2 Great Voltigeur S. victor Pyledriver (GB) (Harbour Watch {Ire}).

Ireland: Coolmore's Santa Barbara (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), a half-sister to GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine Iridessa (Ire) (Ruler of the World {Ire}), is another once-raced 'TDN Rising Star' and posted a highly encouraging 2 1/2-length debut score in a mile maiden at The Curragh in September. Held in high regard by rider Seamus Heffernan, the March-foaled bay retains entries for the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas and G1 Irish Oaks. She is a granddaughter of GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare and GI Matriarch S. heroine Starine (Fr) (Mendocino).

France: Juddmonte homebred Petricor (GB) (Frankel {GB}) caused something of a stir when powering to a taking 1 1/2-length success in a 7 1/2-furlong debutantes' heat at Deauville, but has remained under wraps since that 'TDN Rising Star' display in August. The Andre Fabre trainee hails from a family featuring MG1SW sires Brian Boru (GB) (Sadler's Wells), Workforce (GB) (King's Best) and Best Solution (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}).

Germany: The dying embers of Germany's turf schedule yielded two late-season efforts of note. Klaus-Henning Schmoock's homebred Wintermond (Ger) (Sea The Moon {Ger}) encountered testing conditions in a nine-furlong maiden at Hoppegarten in November and made light of soft-to-heavy going en route to an impressive eight-length rout. The Stefan Richter trainee is kin to MGSW G2 International Topkapi Trophy victor Wonnemond (Ger) (Areion {Ger}) from the family of MG1SW sire Windwurf (Ger) (Kaiseradler {Ger}) and 2019 G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hero Waldgeist (GB) (Galileo {Ire}).

No less impressive was Stall Lucky Owner's Kir Royal (Ger) (Lord of England {Ger}), who also caught the eye on debut in November and outclassed his rivals in a seven-furlong maiden on soft ground at Munich. One of eight winners for his stakes-placed dam, the Henk Grewe trainee is from the family of G2 German 1000 Guineas heroine Kali (Ger) (Areion {Ger}).

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