The Weekly Wrap: Pure Poetry


Jim Bolger |


Master horseman Jim Bolger may have been ensconced in Ireland during this weekend's Guineas Festival, but his influence was felt far and wide across the Rowley Mile.

The fact that Bolger bred, trained and raced the 2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare (Ire) (Dawn Approach {Ire})-in addition to the small feat of breeding his sire and first two dams and training his grandsire and third dam-has been well documented in the following days. But Bolger's fingerprints were likewise on the G1 1000 Guineas the next day: he had trained the winner Mother Earth (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire})'s dam Many Colours (Ire) (Green Desert) for Godolphin, putting a foundation of four wins from 10 starts, including the Listed Dance Design S., on her before she was transferred to Saeed bin Suroor for a Dubai campaign. After producing two winners from her first five foals, Many Colours was sent through the ring at the 2016 Arqana December Breeding Stock Sale in foal to Night Of Thunder (Ire), where she was scooped up by the Wallace family's Grenane House Stud for €50,000. She will be worth considerably more now, with that resulting Night Of Thunder filly, Night Colours (Ire), having won the G2 Premio Dormello and the mare's next foal being Mother Earth. Many Colours has a yearling filly by Sioux Nation and a colt foal who is a full-brother to Mother Earth.

It shouldn't be overlooked either, that in addition to the dam, Bolger also trained the trainer of Mother Earth, Aidan O'Brien having spent his formative years in Bolger's employ.

Last October, when Bolger bred four 2-year-old stakes winners (including two Group 1 winners) in the space of a week, and trained and owned three of them, and three of their sires and all of their dams, it was rightly hailed as a remarkable accomplishment. It would take some deep digging into the record books to know where that feat rates in history, but for the 2000 Guineas it is a bit easier to ascertain. You have to go back to the late 1800s to find the last time an individual trained their own horse to win the 2000 Guineas, and it happened four times between 1823 and 1872. Complete records on breeders for the time are difficult to track down, but we do know that in 1844 John Barnham Day bred, trained and owned 2000 Guineas winner The Ugly Buck. We do not know whether Day bred The Ugly Buck's sire and first two dams! In any case, the owner/breeder/trainer trifecta hasn't happened in the Guineas since at least the mid 1800s. Bolger himself would have accomplished it eight years earlier with Poetic Flare's sire Dawn Approach had he not sold his colt to Godolphin late in his 2-year-old season, but that association-which also saw Dawn Approach's sire New Approach (Ire) change silks prior to winning the 2008 Derby–has been mutually beneficial. Bolger, who always seems to know exactly what he has, was surely crafting a return to the Rowley Mile in his own silks before the ink was dry on the Dawn Approach deal, with the breeding rights he had retained. Meanwhile, Bolger has continued to reap the rewards of another branch of the family: Poetic Flare's third dam Saviour (Majestic Light)-who Bolger trained for Tom Gentry before buying her privately from her breeder-is the second dam of the Bolger-bred Teofilo (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who like Dawn Approach and New Approach won the Dewhurst before going to stud at Darley.

Though he has supplied 10 European stakes winners from his first four crops of racing age, Dawn Approach, prior to Saturday, simply hadn't taken off at stud in the fashion one might have hoped for from a champion 2-year-old and Guineas winner. After covering 32 mares at Kildangan Stud in 2020-most of which were Bolger's anyway–he was deemed surplus to requirements on the Darley roster. No bother. Bolger took Dawn Approach back to his Redmondstown Stud for 2021, where he has entertained Bolger's own broodmares, and it is likely a few others will be knocking on the door. Poetic Flare aside, Dawn Approach has made a productive start to the turf season: his three runners in Britain on Saturday were all winners; 3-year-old Lunar Space (Ire) won the Listed Tetrarch S. on Monday for-you guessed it-owner/breeder/trainer Jim Bolger; and he had three other winners and four placegetters last week. Dawn Approach is the first 2000 Guineas winner to sire a winner of that Classic since 1984 victor El Gran Senor provided the 1989 winner Rodrigo De Triano, both campaigned by Robert Sangster.

Rock Solid

Poetic Flare's sire wasn't his only family member who made a statement over the weekend. We highlighted the accomplishments of Coolmore's elder statesman Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire) in this space last week on the back of his Rocky Sky (Ire) winning the Listed Salsabil S., and if this weekend's results are anything to go by it looks as if the genes of the seven-time Group 1 winner could be enjoying a renaissance. Rock Of Gibraltar was the damsire of three group winners this weekend: in addition to Poetic Flare, daughters of the son of Danehill produced the Aga Khan's Ebaiyra (Distorted Humor), who won her third group race in ParisLongchamp's G3 Prix Allez France; and Lambo (Ger) (Protectionist {Ger}), who became the first stakes winner for his sire in the G3 Bavarian Classic. The Bolger bred, owned and trained 2-year-old filly Missing Matron (Ire) (Vocalised), out of a full-sister to Poetic Flare's dam, picked up black-type on Monday when finishing third in The Curragh's Listed First Flier S. At 22, Rock Of Gibraltar is this year available for his lowest-ever fee of €5,000, but despite the dip his numbers have held steady: he sired 12 stakes winners in 2020 and his 2017 crop, his 4-year-olds of 2021, has included six stakes winners-his third-best crop yet.

Poetic Flare will be the last Bolger-bred foal out of his dam Maria Lee (Ire); Bolger sold her for €65,000 at Goffs November in 2018 to Clarecastle Stud, whose David O'Loughlin-also director of sales at Coolmore–said the Rock Of Gibraltar factor was key to the then-11-year-old mare's appeal.

“Firstly, she was a daughter of a stallion that we really rate, Rock Of Gibraltar,” he said. “With Poetic Flare winning on Saturday and Kameko taking the race last year, his daughters have now produced the winner of the 2000 Guineas two years running. She was also out of a mare by Royal Academy, a stallion I was lucky to be involved with through my work for Coolmore. Her first foal [Glamorous Approach] was a dual listed winner and had been sold for €280,000 as a breeding prospect earlier that year; we believed there may be a fair bit of upside to her.”

“The first foal [Maria Lee] produced for us was a colt by Dawn Approach, a full-brother to Poetic Flare. We sold him to Jim Bolger's granddaughter Clare Manning as a foal and he is now a 2-year-old named Frazil. We then bred her to U S Navy Flag, a champion 2-year-old like Dawn Approach. The resultant foal has developed into a lovely yearling. We look forward to offering her later on this year. We then bred her to another Group 1 winning 2-year-old in Magna Grecia. She produced a colt foal by him the other day. We are really delighted with him. We currently are discussing who to breed her back to and it's definitely not out of the question that she may return to Magna Grecia off the strength of her foal.”

Zoffany Much Missed

While Team Coolmore is surely enjoying a sense of pride concerning Rock Of Gibraltar, Zoffany's good weekend had a bittersweet tone to it, with the son of Dansili (GB)'s premature loss at just 13 in January felt more keenly than ever. In addition to Mother Earth's Classic win, the 5-year-old Zofelle (Ire), who was picked up by Stephen Hillen for 27,000gns from the Peter Magnier dispersal at Tattersalls July in 2019 and later sold privately to Scott Heider, was beaten three-quarters of a length when third in Saturday's GII Distaff Turf Mile S. on the Kentucky Derby undercard. The winner was Blowout (GB), Dansili's daughter of the G1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches winner Beauty Parlour (GB) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) who had cost Peter Brant €450,000 as a foal at the Wildenstein Dispersal in 2016.

Minaun (Ire), a member of Mother Earth's crop, meanwhile, marked herself as one to watch with an eye-catching local debut at Belmont Park on Friday for trainer Chad Brown. Bred by Sir Edmund Loder-whose Bellosa (Ire) (Awtaad {Ire}) was one of the more impressive debutantes of the Craven meeting-Minaun was an €8,000 Goffs Sportsmans yearling who broke her maiden in the G3 Marble Hill S. last summer for Henry De Bromhead before being sold privately to American owners.

Zoffany wasn't the only son of Dansili to enjoy a productive weekend: Bated Breath (GB) bolstered his strong American record with new graded stakes winner Gift List (GB), a 23,000gns yearling initially trained by Karl Burke who won Churchill's GII Edgewood S. by 4 1/2 lengths in her second American outing. She will doubtless soon have the opportunity to join Viadera (GB) as a Grade I winner for Bated Breath. Bated Breath's Banstead Manor barnmate Kingman (GB) had a Grade I winner on the same card, with Klaravich Stables's October Book 1 find Domestic Spending (GB) (Kingman {GB}) sharing the spoils in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic with Colonel Liam (Liam's Map).

Australia (GB) was another sire to make his mark over the weekend with a group winner each in Britain, Ireland and France, all of which could make their marks in the top middle-distance races during the summer. Sir Ron Priestley (GB) got things going with a comfortable score in Saturday's G2 Jockey Club S. at Newmarket, and the 2019 G1 St Leger-placed 5-year-old looks set to continue his comeback after missing all of 2020 in the G2 Hardwicke S. at Royal Ascot. The 4-year-old Mare Australis (GB) became Australia's second Group 1 winner-joining last year's Leger scorer Galileo Chrome (Ire)-when taking ParisLongchamp's G1 Prix Ganay on Sunday, and his longterm goal is the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Broome (Ire) has to be one of the most accomplished horses of the season thus far; he made it three stakes wins on the bounce when taking Monday's 10-furlong G2 Mooresbridge S. at The Curragh and is surely Group 1-bound sooner rather than later.

Cup Protocols Tightened

Speaking of Australia, the horse's namesake was in the headlines last week when it was announced that significant new health and safety measures would be implemented in particular for international horses looking to compete at the Melbourne Spring Carnival. Prompted by the high-profile death of Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) during the running of last year's Cup, Racing Victoria commissioned a fatality report as well as a review of injuries sustained by international horses both during the Melbourne Cup and at their quarantine station, the Werribee International Horse Centre, since 2010. That is because, unfortunately, Anthony Van Dyck's breakdown was not an isolated incident. While a locally-trained runner has not died during the Cup for 42 years, the last eight years have seen six international horses break down during the Cup, and three others sustain fatal injuries at Werribee. Most of those were from European stables.

RV's review was released last week, with 41 of the 44 recommendations within set to be implemented. All Cup runners-local or international-for the first time will undergo a CT scan of their distal limbs pre-race and will be subject to an additional veterinary inspection the day before the race, but that is where the paths diverge. International horses aspiring to compete in the carnival will now be required to undergo a full-body scintigraphy and CT/MRI of their distal limbs before entering quarantine. International horses that have had a previous fracture or orthopedic surgery will be excluded from the carnival. An additional vet check by an RV-approved veterinarian will be required before the horse boards the plane, and the number of international runners at Werribee will be capped at 24; the uncapped peak was 42 in 2018. Those that do make it over will only be allowed to run once before the Cup.

The changes were met by almost universal disappointment among European trainers, who expressed understanding that something had to be done, but disappointment nonetheless at the severity of the new measures. There is fear that the difficulty and expense of running a foreign horse at the carnival may mean that even more middle distance runners and marathoners are sold abroad even earlier in their careers. There is sadness that The Race That Stops A Nation, which has become an international treasure since the pioneering Dermot Weld won it with Vintage Crop in 1993, may shrink back to a colonial event once again. The recommendations in the report are based on educated guesses, but as it usually goes with horses, no one really knows why international horses are dying at such a disproportionate rate to locals at the spring carnival. Yes, the measures seem in some cases extreme, but they might be what is needed to pull the Cup back from the public confidence crisis it is embroiled in.

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