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Guineas hero Poetic Flare retired to stud in Japan

Poetic Flare has been retired and will stand at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan from next year.

The Jim Bolger-trained colt has enjoyed a fruitful three-year-old campaign, kicking off with victory in Leopardstown Listed heat in April before landing the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket the following month.

He then finished sixth in French 2000 Guineas before being edged out by stablemate Mac Swiney in the Irish version just six days later.

The son of Dawn Approach returned to winning form in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and subsequently finished second in both the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville.

He was beaten just three-quarters of a length in the Irish Champion Stakes over 10 furlongs on what transpired to be his final run, with an outing on Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday ruled out.

Bolger told Thoroughbred Daily News: “I’m sure many racegoers will be disappointed not to see him at Ascot, and I am disappointed myself that he is not going there, but it was not possible.

“He will be standing at Shadai and will be leaving soon for Japan.

“This is a first for me, but it is a great opportunity for the horse and I will be supporting him with mares myself, even though it won’t be that straightforward.”

Irish Champion intended destination for Poetic Flare

Poetic Flare is set to step up in trip for next week’s Irish Champion Stakes after trainer Jim Bolger decided against a clash with Baaeed in France on Sunday.

The duo had been in line to face off in the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp, with Poetic Flare bringing Group One victories to the table having landed both the 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes this term, while Baaeed is a rising star and unbeaten in four starts so far.

However, Bolger – who warned earlier in the week he would monitor weather conditions in deciding where he would run – has decided to plot a different course with Poetic Flare, instead opting to try 10 furlongs at Leopardstown with his Dawn Approach colt, who was last seen when just edged out by Palace Pier in a thrilling edition of the Prix Jacques le Marois.

Kevin Manning celebrates winning the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes on Poetic Flare
Kevin Manning celebrates winning the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes on Poetic Flare (John Walton/PA)

He told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “I’ve got the weather forecast for the week, (and) while it’s going to rain, I don’t think it will be enough to produce soft ground, so I’m taking a chance and at this stage we’re saying we’re going to Leopardstown.”

In a stellar season, Poetic Flare has proved himself without doubt one of the toughest and best milers of recent years, as aside from his big-race victories and run behind Palace Pier he has also been second to stablemate Mac Swiney in the Irish Guineas and runner-up to Alcohol Free in the Sussex Stakes.

Should he run in the feature on the opening day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend he is likely to meet two formidable opponents in Aidan O’Brien’s St Mark’s Basilica and the Dermot Weld-trained Tarnawa.

Bolger explained that a combination of financial factors and ground conditions at Leopardstown had been key to his decision rather than the potential opposition at either venue.

He said: “(I was tempted to run in France) because I thought Leopardstown might get more rain, but I’m reasonably satisfied now that the going will be OK at Leopardstown.

“I’m not thinking about which is tough, I’m just going for which race I think suits best on the day. I’m not concerned about who goes where – I’m only concerned about the going.

“I can’t be sure (10 furlongs will suit better than a mile), but weighing up all the considerations, it’s been fairly easy for me to opt for Leopardstown.

“If you want to look at the financial side, the winner in Longchamp would take home about 250,000, which is not inconsiderable, and at Leopardstown it will be almost 700,000 I reckon. As someone who has to run the sport come business in a reasonably financial manner, Leopardstown makes more appeal.

“Leopardstown is home as well and we don’t have to spend 80,000 on an aeroplane so for that reason, Leopardstown was a no-brainer but then I had to consider the going. They are the only considerations, I’m not concerned about who else is going there as long as there’s room for us.

“It’s been the best mile-and-a-quarter race in the world in the last number of years.”

Jim Bolger reports his star miler to be in fine form
Jim Bolger reports his star miler to be in fine form (Mike Egerton/PA)

While Bolger is not certain Poetic Flare will thrive for a mile and a quarter, he has seen plenty in his manner of racing to raise to indicate he will.

He said: “This fella wouldn’t know how to be in any other shape – only top shape. That’s the sort of horse he is. He pulls out with his tail up every morning, it doesn’t matter if it’s the day after a race, he’s the same. You just couldn’t give him too much.

“I won’t be confident (about 10 furlongs suiting) until after Saturday week, but I’m reasonably sure by the way he was coming home in his mile races off a very fast pace that he will stay the extra two furlongs.

“If you look at Ascot, (it was) a record time for the race – even faster than the great horses that have won it in the past, including Frankel. He didn’t seem to be stopping as he approached the line so I’m reasonably confident he will get the trip and if he doesn’t, so be it.”

Jim Bolger holds Baaeed in high regard
Jim Bolger holds Baaeed in high regard (Tim Goode/PA)

Although Poetic Flare and Baaeed will now not meet in France, Bolger raised the possibility of a clash in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day next month.

He added: “(William Haggas) wouldn’t have been too concerned about who turned up (at Deauville) either because I’m sure he feels the same way about his horse. From what we’ve seen he’s entitled to feel that way.

“It would have been interesting and maybe we’ll meet at Ascot.”

Bolger will make late call on Poetic Flare’s Moulin challenge

Jim Bolger will wait until later in the week before deciding whether to send Poetic Flare back to France for the Prix du Moulin at ParisLongchamp.

The Dawn Approach colt has enjoyed an excellent season so far – winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, as well as filling the runner-up spot in the Irish Guineas, Sussex Stakes and Prix Jacques le Marois.

Bolger reports his stable star to be in fine form for his latest upcoming Group One assignment.

But with the Irish Champion Stakes taking place at Leopardstown the following Saturday, the Coolcullen maestro is keen to properly assess ground conditions in Paris before committing Poetic Flare to another trip across the Channel on Sunday.

“It will all depend on what the going is like at Longchamp and Leopardstown,” said Bolger.

“We’ll be keeping an eye on the going at both tracks, and no decision will be made until Friday.

“We just want good ground. He’s very well.”

Baaeed is favourite to beat Poetic Flare in France
Baaeed is favourite to beat Poetic Flare in France (Tim Goode/PA)

Should Poetic Flare wait for the Irish Champion Stakes, he would be tackling a mile and a quarter for the first time.

Bolger added: “That is a consideration for further down the line.”

Poetic Flare was one of nine horses left in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp at the latest forfeit stage on Wednesday morning.

The odds-on favourite is the William Haggas-trained Baaeed, who is set to put his unbeaten record on the line on his Group One debut.

Richard Hannon has confirmed his star filly Snow Lantern, while Aidan O’Brien could send one or both of Lope Y Fernandez and Order Of Australia from Ireland.

Poetic Flare still improving as Bolger eyes Sussex redemption

Poetic Flare is bidding for a third Group One in an already busy season in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Jim Bolger’s colt has already won the 2000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes, as well as finishing a close second to stablemate Mac Swiney in the Irish Guineas.

It was his Ascot performance which had the ratings gurus purring, though, as he won by more than four lengths in what was his fourth run in a little over six weeks.

“Poetic Flare has been very well since the St James’s Palace Stakes,” said Bolger.

“We’re very happy with his work, and he seems to be improving further. I was expecting and hoping for him to win at Ascot, but possibly not as spectacularly as he did.

“He’s only had a break in as much as he hasn’t been racing, but he’s a horse who I have to keep moving, and so it hasn’t exactly been a holiday. He’s very well, and I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Poetic Flare’s sire Dawn Approach lost only to Toronado in the Sussex in 2013, a reverse that still seems to rankle with Bolger, and he would love to make up for it in the latest Qipco British Champions Series event.

“Dawn Approach was a really good horse on good ground or faster, and the day he was beaten by Toronado in the Sussex Stakes it was officially good to soft,” said the County Carlow trainer.

“It was moving on top, so he never really got a hold of it. He didn’t like it.”

The deluges which turned the Goodwood going heavy for the start of this year’s meeting may not be in Poetic Flare’s favour either – but his trainer is not fretting.

Bolger added: “It was fast ground when Poetic Flare won at Ascot, and it might well be that he’s better on that better ground, but he seems to handle all going and he’s pretty good on soft too.

“My preference would be for good ground, but I’m not much given to worrying anyway. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. I’m very happy with my horse, and I don’t worry too much about anybody else’s.”

Poetic Flare may have most to fear from the two fillies, Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern.

The latter came out on top in the Falmouth Stakes, having finishing behind Alcohol Free in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Snow Lantern flew fast and late to win the Falmouth
Snow Lantern flew fast and late to win the Falmouth (Tim Goode/PA)

Snow Lantern’s trainer Richard Hannon decided to stay at a mile rather than go up in trip for the Nassau later in the week. Jamie Spencer replaces the suspended Sean Levey in the saddle.

Hannon said: “Snow Lantern looked a very good filly in the Falmouth, and she was probably at her strongest at the line, so I don’t think the longer trip in the Nassau would have been any problem.

“But we are sticking to a mile for now, because we know she is very good at the trip.

“The ground was a big factor too, because she showed she could handle the soft when she ran so well in the Coronation Stakes, and one or two others might not be so good on it. It’s a hot race, but it would be a very nice one to win if we could.”

Andrew Balding said of Alcohol Free: “She’s a high-class filly, and I’m really looking forward to it.

“It looks like conditions should be ideal. It’s a very strong race, as it should be.

Alcohol Free won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot
Alcohol Free won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (David Davies/PA)

“The turning track seemed to suit her really well when she won at Royal Ascot, so I think Goodwood will suit her really well.

“At Newmarket in the Falmouth it wasn’t the plan to make the running, and she rather set it up for the others. Hopefully if there’s some sort of pace to aim at she’s got a fairly electric turn of foot. I’m really excited about her.”

The Charlie Hills-trained Tilsit is progressing nicely and took the Summer Mile comfortably enough last time out

“His Group One defeat in France at the start of the season was frustrating, because he was in front just before the line and just after the line,” said Hills.

“I was really pleased with his subsequent win in the Summer Mile at Ascot – he did it in great style. He’s probably come out of Ascot the best he’s come out of any race – he’s in great form.

“He won a Group Three at the meeting last year, so we know he handles the track.”

Aidan O’Brien, who declared Battleground a non-runner on Monday, is still represented by Lope Y Fernandez and Breeders’ Cup winner Order Of Australia.

“We are looking forward to Lope Y Fernandez and we think he’s come forward again since Ascot (second to Palace Pier),” said O’Brien.

“We are very happy with him. He’s very straightforward and is progressing well.

“Order Of Australia has come out of his win at the Curragh very well, and the Sussex Stakes is a race which could suit him. He’s a hardy older horse who likes fast ground, and a mile is probably his trip – he gets it very well.”

Poetic Flare tops bill as 10 bid for Sussex Stakes

Poetic Flare is the star attraction among 10 contenders for the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Jim Bolger’s charge has been kept busy since claiming Classic glory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May – finishing sixth in the French Guineas and runner-up in the Irish Guineas before his sensational victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The son of Dawn Approach is a red-hot favourite to add to his Group One tally when he faces his elders for the first time on Wednesday.

Aidan O’Brien, who has saddled five previous winners of the Sussex Stakes, this year runs Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia and Queen Anne runner-up Lope Y Fernandez. Battleground, who won the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last summer, was initially also declared for Ballydoyle but is a non-runner after a bad scope.

The two fillies in the field are familiar rivals Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern. Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free came out on top when the pair met in last month’s Coronation Stakes, but the Richard Hannon-trained Snow Lantern turned the tables in the Falmouth three weeks ago.

Hannon has a second string to his bow in Chindit, who finished fifth behind Poetic Flare in both the Guineas and the St James’s Palace, while Tilsit is stepped back up in grade by Charlie Hills after winning Ascot’s Summer Mile.

Andre Fabre’s French raider Duhail, Simon and Ed Crisford’s Century Dream and Space Traveller from Richard Fahey’s yard also feature.

Guineas winner Poetic Flare stands tall in Sussex Stakes

Poetic Flare will face a maximum of 11 rivals in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday.

Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas hero has already run five times this season, but appears to be thriving on his racing judged on his sensational performance in last month’s St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

With star older miler Palace Pier withdrawn as expected following unsatisfactory blood results, Poetic Flare is a red-hot favourite to add to his Group One tally next week.

Aidan O’Brien retains a strong hand, with Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia and Queen Anne runner-up Lope Y Fernandez confirmed along with two other stablemates in Battleground and Wembley.

There are two top-class fillies in contention, with Richard Hannon’s Snow Lantern and the Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free potentially renewing rivalry. Alcohol Free came out on top in the Coronation Stakes, but Snow Lantern reversed the form in the Falmouth at Newmarket.

Hannon could also call upon Chindit, Charlie Hills is set to saddle Summer Mile winner Tilsit and Duhail could be sent across the Channel by leading French trainer Andre Fabre.

Century Dream (Simon and Ed Crisford) and Space Traveller (Richard Fahey) are the other hopefuls.

Bolger eyes first Sussex Stakes with Poetic Flare

Poetic Flare will bid to go one better than his sire Dawn Approach, for trainer Jim Bolger, in Goodwood’s Qatar Sussex Stakes next week.

Bolger’s colt has won three of his five starts in a hugely successful three-year-old campaign so far – which has included victory in both the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, emulating his sire in the process.

If he prevails again on day two of the Goodwood Festival, Poetic Flare will be providing his trainer with a first victory in the Sussex Stakes – in which the County Carlow yard’s 2013 Guineas hero Dawn Approach had to settle for an honourable second in his Classic year.

The British heatwave is likely to leave conditions at Goodwood no slower than good next Wednesday.

Bolger said: “He handles soft ground but he’s better on good ground.

“He is very well balanced, so I don’t think Goodwood holds any problems for him.”

Poetic Flare has inherited many of Dawn Approach’s characteristics.

“He’s a heavyweight in every regard and is over 500kg,” said Bolger.

“He’s a very easy horse to manage, because he knows his job and he thrives on racing.

“He has a great appetite for eating and for working – he’s just like his sire Dawn Approach in every way.”

“He has one more bit of work to get through and will then arrive at Goodwood on Monday.

“It’s a very special race and a race I’ve not won before.”

Harrington speaks out on Bolger claims of drugs cheats in Irish racing

Prominent Irish trainer Jessica Harrington has voiced her sadness that the public may believe horses are being drugged in Irish racing.

Harrington, among the all-time greats of the Irish ranks under both codes, has also called for “very, very severe” punishments if any of her colleagues are found to be drugging horses.

Speaking to Ruby Walsh on RTE Racing, the Classic and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer was responding to this month’s claims from Jim Bolger that a ‘Lance Armstrong’ will be uncovered in Irish racing.

Top Flat trainer Bolger has been invited before a parliamentary hearing early next month to substantiate his claims, together with officials from Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.

Harrington said: “It just makes me sad that people think that horses are drugged, and trainers are drugging horses.

“As far as I’m concerned, catch the people that are doing it if they are doing it, and punish them very, very severely – because they are damaging the rest of our sport.

“Every time any trainer has a winner there is a sort of suspicion now ‘was there drugs in that horse?’.”

County Kildare-based Harrington spelled out that she would welcome the authorities to test all horses in her care.

Jessica Harrington wants to see sever punishments if any trainers are found to be drugging their horses
Jessica Harrington wants to see sever punishments if any trainers are found to be drugging their horses (Nigel French/PA)

“If I have a winner people might ask ‘is there drugs’ – but I do not give my horses drugs. I’ve been training now 35 years and I’ve always been straight and honest, an open book if they want to come here and test.

“I think testing is very important, and maybe there should be more – but every single winner in Ireland is tested, and there are a certain amount of random tests.

“As I’m a licensed trainer, they can come into my yard and test at any time and search the yard.

“I hope there isn’t (an issue in Irish racing) – but in every sport, there are people using drugs and trying to get the better of the system.

“All I can do is put my hand on my heart and say ‘I don’t do it’.

“They are testing to a high standard. ‘Is it high enough?’ – I don’t know, that’s up to the regulators here to have it to a high standard.”

Beauty Inspire signals rich potential with Curragh victory

Beauty Inspire stamped himself out an exciting prospect when making a winning debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Stakes at the Curragh.

The Ger Lyons-trained youngster overcame his obvious inexperience to easily brush aside the opposition.

His reputation preceded him as Beauty Inspire was sent off the 16-5 favourite, and he holds an early-closing entry in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes over the same six furlongs in August.

Ultramarine and Up Above were among the early leaders, and the race looked wide open until Colin Keane produced the Mehmas colt on the far side.

Beauty Inspire crossed the line three and three-quarters to the good over Cowboy Justice, despite drifting towards the centre of the course.

“This horse came from Tally-Ho Stud very well prepared,” said Shane Lyons, assistant to his brother.

“Ours improve for their first run. But in fairness to the boys (Tony and Roger O’Callaghan), he came well recommended – and how right they were.

“We don’t normally make early-closing entries for horses that have never run – but we did with this lad (in the Phoenix Stakes), because we have always liked him.

“His owners are from Hong Kong, and ultimately he will probably end up going there, but we are going to enjoy his two-year-old career. He’s smart and has always showed a very good temperament.”

Discoveries showed the benefit of a previous run when opening her account at the second attempt in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.

The full sister to the brilliant Alpha Centauri and Alpine Star held the strong challenge of Aidan O’Brien’s Tuesday to take the seven-furlong contest by a short head.

The pair of them had the race between them after Discoveries (7-4 favourite) hit the front over a furlong out to deny the full sister to Minding and this year’s Irish 1,000 Guineas scorer Empress Joephine.

Jessica Harrington’s daughter of Mastercraftsman knuckled down to her task, and would not be denied under a drive from Shane Foley.

Owned by the Niarchos Family, Discoveries had finished fourth on her debut at Leopardstown three weeks ago, and the County Kildare trainer has big plans for her.

Harrington said: “She is keeping the family tradition going and is still very green. Being in front for so long probably didn’t suit her.

“She improved a lot from the first run to this race, and will improve again. The Debutante and the Moyglare are two races we have in mind for her.

“Shane felt she would be much better in a better race, where they could take her along. She’s very leery and looking at everything – a lot more than her other siblings.”

Ice Cold In Alex pounced late to claim victory in the Brady Family Supporting Barretstown Handicap, in the colours of Middleham Park Racing.

Ken Condon’s seven-year-old had not won since August 2018 but showed he still retains plenty of ability to beat 25 rivals in cosy fashion.

The 14-1 shot had plenty to do a furlong out but weaved his way through the field and went on to score by a length and a quarter from Dixie Bluebell in the hands of 5lb claimer Joey Sheridan.

Imposing Supreme was half a length away in third, with Hightimeyouwon a head back in fourth.

Sheridan said: “He was probably a bit unlucky the last day. Mr Condon said you can’t ride him safe – he needs all the luck, and thankfully he had all the luck today.

“I’m very grateful to Mr Condon and his owners Middleham Park, because it’s great to get rides like this on big weekends. It puts you in the shop window.”

The feature Bord Na Mona Recycling Apprentice Derby went to a Jim Bolger-trained winner for the third time in the last four years as Beyond Happy broke his duck at the fifth career attempt.

Luke McAteer was all smiles after his fine front-running ride as the 4-1 shot saw off a host of challengers in the straight and still had enough to repel outsider Allora Yeats close home, by a length and a quarter.

Bolger’s daughter Una Manning said: “It’s a prestigious race for apprentices, and nice to win a race like that on Derby weekend as well.

“The boss gave Luke his instructions before he went racing, and told him that he thought he would win.

“He’s a lightly-raced, nice type – and there should be more in him. He appreciated the step up in trip as well.”

Interpretation provided a first success of this year’s Irish Derby meeting for O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore when making much of the running and then keeping favourite Safecracker at bay by a length in the  Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

O’Brien said of his 7-2 winner: “I think he’ll stay further and have no problem with a mile and a half anyway.

“Those type of horses can progress, and he went to the line with his ears pricked.”

Sheridan completed a double when the front-running Longbourn won the TRI Equestrian Handicap for trainer Ross O’Sullivan, at 9-1 and by a length and three-quarters from Solene Lilyette.

Bolger to be invited before committee to discuss doping claims

Jim Bolger is to be invited before an Irish parliamentary committee investigating claims of doping in the Irish horse racing industry, it has been confirmed.

Agriculture Committee chairman Jackie Cahill said Bolger’s claims were doing “serious reputational damage” to the industry and that it was important they are either “substantiated or put to bed”.

The Fianna Fail TD for Tipperary confirmed that committee members had decided to ask Bolger and representatives of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Horse Racing Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association to discuss the matter on July 6.

Earlier this month, Bolger – who this season has won the 2000 Guineas and the Irish equivalent with Poetic Flare and Mac Swiney respectively – outlined his concerns about the possibility of doping within Irish racing in both a newspaper interview and in a racing podcast.

It prompted the IHRB to underline its commitment to “the highest standards of integrity within Irish racing” and a “zero-tolerance approach to doping”.

Cahill told the PA news agency it is “hugely important” that the accusations are investigated given Ireland’s horse racing reputation.

“We’re seen as the world leaders in horse racing. For a small country our success is phenomenal,” he said.

“We really punch above our weight and for a lead trainer – Jim Bolger – to say that there would be a Lance Armstrong incident in Irish racing is extremely serious.

“It just can’t be ignored it must be dealt with.”

He added: “In my view he has to either confirm it or withdraw it. It’s doing serious reputational damage.

Cahill said there is an “obligation” on the committee to investigate the claims.

“The way we look at this is this issue either has to be substantiated or put to bed,” he said.

“You can’t having a doping insinuation like that hanging over the industry.”

“We’ll see what Mr Bolger has to say and we’ll listen to the various authorities and see where we go from there.”

A spokesperson for the IHRB said on Tuesday: “We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the deputies on the Oireachtas Committee and explain details of what we do in terms of equine anti-doping and our strategies as well as the advances that have been made in this area over the last number of years and more recently.”

Monday Musings: Of Long Days and the Classic Generation

June 21st is upon us. The longest day was to be the freest day until the timid medical advisors to the UK government put the wind up them with fears that the D variant – the virus formerly known as Indian – would cause another surge in infections, writes Tony Stafford.

Well it has, averaging around 10,000 a day for the last week or so, but they are testing many, many more nowadays. Anyone prepared to go anywhere near a racecourse will have enjoyed the experience of things up their nose or aimed at their tonsils.

Since mine were removed in 1952, the year of the Queen’s ascent to the throne – rewarded with a nice ice cream <me, not the Queen> as I recall – I would only be eligible for the nose job, but apparently it’s very much an officialdom-rich environment.

While the infections have risen, the numbers dying most emphatically have not, an average of ten a day for the last week when the “roadmap” was hastily and negatively redrawn. With massive numbers of older people fully vaccinated you wouldn’t expect many deaths, but the silly old advisors want it both ways.

As I’ve said numerous times, I won’t go until everyone is free to go everywhere. I contented myself with a Saturday night day-early Father’s Day celebration with my three 40-plus children and a selection of their issue. Lovely it was too.

So on to the summer and of course from tonight the days will shorten inexorably by three minutes for each of the next 182 and then the semi-cycle will start again the other way round. We’ve already had Royal Ascot and ten of the 12 spring/summer European Classic races – only Ireland’s Derby and Oaks remain in that part of the calendar, and then the St Legers in their various forms and degrees of credibility.

The Irish have won eight of the ten, Jim Bolger picking up the 2,000 Guineas with Poetic Flare and his domestic version with Mac Swiney. Poetic Flare’s demolition job in the St James’s Palace Stakes certainly puts him well ahead among the mile colts this year.

The two Classics decided so far and not to have been won by the Irish have been the Poule D’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000) won by Coeursamba, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, and  the Derby (Adayar, Charlie Appleby).

The remaining six have all been hoovered up by Aidan O’Brien and the Ballydoyle team and each of them boasts combinations of the increasingly complex Coolmore pedigrees.

Five individual horses have been involved in those all-important Classic victories, and four of them are fillies. I contend that St Mark’s Basilica, despite his workmanlike victory in the French 2,000 (Poulains) and a more comfortable Prix Du Jockey Club success, both under Ioritz Mendizabal, is vastly under-valued in official terms. He beat a big field in Chantilly and his female stable-companion Joan Of Arc (by Galileo, <really?!, Ed?>) was similarly too good for another large field of home fillies in yesterday’s French Oaks, the Prix de Diane. This time Coeursamba finished only 11th.

On Sunday Aidan relied on a single runner in a field of 17 and the 16 home defenders were no match for another Mendizabal mount who won by just over a length from the fast-finishing Fabre-trained and Godolphin-owned Philomene, a daughter of Dubawi.

That made it single-runner O’Brien challenges in three of the four French Classic races to be run so far – unplaced Van Gogh joined St Mark’s Basilica in the Jockey Club.  Therefore three wins and a close second (Mother Earth, ridden by Christophe Soumillon) in the French 1,000. That new-found minimalist approach also extended to Epsom and the Derby where Bolshoi Ballet, the favourite, was left as their only runner having been initially one of six expected to turn out.

Three of the four fillies in question improved markedly on juvenile form, the exception being 1,000 Guineas winner and then Pouliches runner-up Mother Earth, who had already earned her 111 rating for her second place in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf race at Keeneland last November and remains on that figure despite her Classic exploits. She ran another game race in third in much the most testing ground she has faced in Friday’s Coronation Stakes at Ascot behind Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free.

Joan Of Arc took a rating of 105 into the Irish 1,000 and was Ryan Moore’s choice for the race but Seamie Heffernan got up on the line that day aboard Empress Josephine (101) in a private duel between two Galileo fillies. She clearly improved on that yesterday while Emperor Josephine was assessed at 109 after her win.

But the biggest eye-opener was Snowfall, the 16-length Oaks winner at Epsom who went into her prep in the Musidora at York on an official mark of 90. That was upped to 108 after her Knavesmire romp but even so she was still believed by insiders to be second-best among a more normal Oaks quintet behind lightly-raced Santa Barbara, now beaten favourite in both this year’s fillies’ classics in the UK.

It seems to me a master-stroke of fudging by the BHA to restrict Snowfall’s latest mark to 120, not merely because that is 2lb lower than Enable after her Oaks defeat of Rhododendron – what that champion did after Epsom has nothing to do with the assessment - and also 1lb less than Adayar.

The give-away for me is to suggest that Mystery Angel, rated 100 after her fourth (four lengths back) in the Musidora had only equalled her York mark. That ignored she made the running at Epsom in a much bigger field and still had the resources left to stay on and retain second 16 lengths behind the Frankie Dettori-ridden winner, finishing well ahead of a trio of considerably more highly-rated fillies.

If the medical advisors who keep us wearing masks and touching fists rather than shaking hands are timid, they have nothing on the BHA men who fear giving too high a rating to a Classic winner, even one who has set a record winning distance for any UK Classic in living memory and beyond.

Snowfall has made the first big statement that she might be a challenger to Love, her predecessor as an outstanding Oaks winner and star of the stable’s slightly disappointing Royal Ascot, as the season progresses. Love, dropping back two furlongs after a ten-month absence since the 2020 Yorkshire Oaks, made all to win the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

A third female deserving of mention in that elite grouping must be the David Menuisier-trained four-year-old filly, Wonderful Tonight. She got first run on Broome to win Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes in style despite its being her first appearance of the year. Her French-born Sussex-based trainer has the Arc, where she has a good chance of getting the soft ground she favours, as her main target.

Broome may not have won but earlier that afternoon his close relative by Australia, the two-year-old Point Lonsdale, won the Chesham Stakes, a race often reserved for the best of the earlier O’Brien juveniles. Ryan had a battle keeping him straight, first going right and as they got close home, more markedly left, but they had enough in hand to beat the Queen’s promising colt Reach For The Moon – Sea The Stars/ Gosdens / Dettori – by half a length.

We had wondered why she chose Saturday to make an appearance. That highly-encouraging performance and the good run later of her King’s Lynn in the Wokingham made it a bit more like Royal Ascot, even when viewed from Hackney Wick. Hopefully, Your Majesty, you and me (and many others besides) can be there for the whole five days in 2022.

The astonishing thing about all four female Coolmore Classic winners is that at no time did anyone at Ballydoyle, and certainly not the trainer nor the owners, believe any of them was within hailing distance of Santa Barbara. My guess from Epsom was that the favourite probably did not stay the mile and a half under the conditions and in the quirky way the race was run, up the stands side with all the direction changing that inevitably happens.

I’m looking forward to seeing her, in what still will be only her fourth race and with a highly-creditable close fourth to Mother Earth at Newmarket on her record, in a suitable race over ten furlongs. The Nassau would be nice, but maybe she won’t be the only one from her stable appearing in that Goodwood Group 1.

 

Poetic Flare rules supreme in St James’s Palace demolition

Poetic Flare produced a performance of supreme brilliance to leave his rivals toiling in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Jim Bolger’s charge had won the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier in the season, run respectably in the French equivalent on soft ground and then been touched off by stablemate Mac Swiney in the Irish version.

As he had already won a Guineas trial before Newmarket he was having his fifth run of the season – and had obviously thrived for it.

Kevin Manning had the son of Dawn Approach in the box seat throughout and in truth the result never looked in any doubt as soon as he moved his partner into a challenging position.

The veteran rider waited until a furlong and a half out before pushing the button and the response was immediate. The 7-2 favourite shot clear and crossed the line four and a quarter lengths clear of Lucky Vega. Battleground ran on for third, with Maximal fourth.

Quotes for the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood were quick to arrive and Betfair went 7-2 from 10-1.

Bolger told Sky Sports Racing from his County Carlow base: “I’m very relaxed about it. I have tremendous confidence in this horse and I was expecting him to go and do that. Thanks to all my staff and everybody who has helped.

“We always knew he was hardy from the word go, even when he was being broken in you couldn’t keep him quiet.

“We’ve bred from the family since the very early 1980s, so a long time.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall speak to jockey Kevin Manning
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall speak to jockey Kevin Manning (Steven Paston/PA)

“When you have a horse winning the St James’s Palace like that you don’t really think about all the relatives and the breeding, you wouldn’t care if he came to you off the back of a truck as long as you had him.

“This horse is so hardy he’s unbelievable, you have to give it to him to keep his back down.”

On plans, he added: “Kevin will be itching to have a crack at the older horses.”

Manning said: “He was probably better today than he has been all year.

“He travelled very well – I arrived there at the two-pole and couldn’t believe how well I was travelling and when I asked him he put it to bed very quickly.

“I wasn’t worried that he’d been busy, Jim was very happy with him and said he’d never had a horse leave the yard in the shape he was in and I thought that as well. With that sort of confidence behind me, I had no worries.

“I had a lovely position, everything went very smooth and when I switched him out he put the race to bed in a few strides.

“He’s very good, very smart. He handles every ground, but he’s obviously much pacier on this ground.

“It means everything to the guys at home in the yard to have a horse like this. I just turn up on the day and ride them.”

Kevin Manning celebrates
Kevin Manning celebrates (Steven Paston/PA)

“To get this horse here after the runs he’s had is unbelievable.

“I owe Jim everything, and I’d also like to say ‘well done’ to all the lads in the yard who have kept this lad on the go.”

Lucky Vega once again found Poetic Flare too strong, just like at Newmarket and the Curragh, and he will now head to stud in Australia.

His trainer Jessica Harrington said: “He certainly proved he stayed every yard of the mile against a horse that has beaten him three times now.

“I think there will be an announcement in Australia and I will be very sad to lose him because in my opinion he would certainly have won a Group One if he’d remained here.”

Poetic Flare seeks to uphold family tradition in St James’s Palace

Poetic Flare bids to emulate his sire Dawn Approach by adding the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot to his 2000 Guineas success.

Dawn Approach took both races for trainer Jim Bolger in 2013, and now his son seeks to maintain family honour and complete the same Group One double in a race which forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series on Tuesday.

Poetic Flare has already had four races this season – finishing sixth in the French Guineas and runner-up to stablemate Mac Swiney in the Irish Guineas since his Classic triumph at Newmarket.

Dawn Approach was having only his third start of the campaign when he edged out Toronado in a thrilling battle on Ascot’s round mile in 2013.

“It’s been an extraordinary season, with just one real hiccup (in the French 2000 Guineas) and another that was self-inflicted at the Curragh,” said Bolger.

“Nothing went right in the race at Longchamp, and we’ve drawn a line through it. He came back very quickly to finish second at the Curragh, so he’s very, very hardy – you couldn’t do that with every horse.

“The biggest trouble I have is keeping the weight off him. He’s a great doer, and he still has to do plenty at home, despite the schedule.”

Comparing Poetic Flare to his sire, the trainer added: “Dawn Approach was pretty hardy too and took it well, but he wouldn’t have been the same as Poetic Flare – but I’ve never had a colt of his quality who needed as much work as he does.

Jim Bolger saddles Poetic Flare
Jim Bolger saddles Poetic Flare (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He’s very well, and I think he has a big chance – the bookmakers seem to think so too.

“He goes on any ground too, which is a big advantage. It was good to firm when he won at Newmarket, but personally I’d prefer it if there was no firm in the description as horses last longer that way.”

John and Thady Gosden’s Mostahdaf puts his 100 per cent record on the line, but takes a big step up in class and is the least experienced horse in the field with just three runs.

However, Gosden senior is happy to pitch him in at the deep end following his victory in the Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown.

“Our fellow has come the slow route – it wasn’t his fault he couldn’t run last year because he had a hiccup,” said the Clarehaven handler.

“This year he won twice on the all-weather and then the Heron. You could argue, and William Buick felt, that Highland Avenue was on the slower part of the track at Sandown near the rail, while we were more middle to left on the better ground.

“Having said that, our horse ran a great race, and I think the St James’s Palace is quite an open affair.

“I think our fellow will be fine on the ground – he’s a lovely horse, and we’ve taken this route before with Without Parole, and King Of Comedy just missed. Palace Pier came from an unobvious direction, too.”

Chindit has two Group-race successes among his four wins, with his only two defeats from six starts coming at Newmarket in the Dewhurst Stakes and 2000 Guineas.

His trainer Richard Hannon told Unibet: “I thought he ran well (when fifth in the 2000 Guineas) – he might even think he won the race, because the race was over the other side of the track away from him.

“We are going to take the noseband off. Dobbsy (Pat Dobbs) reported that he doesn’t really face it. It’s a round mile at Ascot, and we will ride him a little handier.”

Hannon knows what it takes to land this coveted prize, having saddled Barney Roy to score in 2017.

“Barney Roy wasn’t the fastest horse – he was the first one off the bridle in the St James’s Palace Stakes when he won it, but he kept going and ground them down going to the line. If this fella wins, it will probably happen in a similar way,” he added.

“We are very happy with him at home – he deserves a big one. He is a very good horse, and this is hopefully a chance to show it.”

Battleground is one of three runners for Aidan O'Brien
Battleground is one of three runners for Aidan O’Brien (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Aidan O’Brien attempts to improve his record tally of eight victories – with a three-pronged assault of Battleground, Ontario and Wembley.

He said: “We’re hoping the better ground will suit Battleground and Wembley.

“We couldn’t run Battleground at the Curragh (in the Irish 2,000 Guineas) because the ground just got too bad. Wembley ran there, but it had gone too bad for him also.

“Both of them have been in good form since their last runs. If we can get them back to the form they showed at two, they would have a chance.”

Guineas hero Poetic Flare heads 13 for St James’s Palace date

Classic hero Poetic Flare and the unbeaten Mostahdaf are among 13 colts declared for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Jim Bolger’s Poetic Flare landed the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in early May, since when he has finished sixth in the French Guineas and runner-up in the Irish Guineas behind stablemate Mac Swiney.

Mostahdaf has won each of his three starts to date for John and Thady Gosden – completing his hat-trick in the Heron Stakes at Sandown almost four weeks ago.

The Frankel colt beat Charlie Appleby’s Highland Avenue by half a length in that Listed contest and the pair will renew rivalry at Group One level on Tuesday.

Appleby also saddles Irish Guineas sixth La Barrosa, while Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega also brings strong Classic form to the table, having finished third at Newmarket and fourth at the Curragh.

With William Buick siding with Highland Avenue, James Doyle is looking forward to partnering La Barrosa in a race which forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.

He said: “He ran very well in the Craven when second to Master Of The Seas and then went for the Irish Guineas on what was obviously quite testing ground. He travelled into the race really well there, but didn’t quite see it out.

“I think he’ll be seen to much better effect on quicker ground at Ascot, and on his Craven run he’s entitled to go well in what’s obviously a tough race.”

Battleground is one of three runners for Aidan O'Brien
Battleground is one of three runners for Aidan O’Brien (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Aidan O’Brien runs Battleground, Ontario and Wembley, with son Joseph represented by Thunder Moon.

Battleground and Wembley, who both sport first-time tongue ties, plus Thunder Moon all disappointed in the Guineas at Newmarket and Wembley has also since failed to fire in the Irish equivalent.

Bullace (Ralph Beckett), Chindit (Richard Hannon), Maximal (Sir Michael Stoute) and Naamoos (Mark Johnston) complete the line-up.

Hurricane Lane leads Appleby hopes of second Derby triumph

Charlie Appleby is spearheading the challenge to outdo big-race favourite Bolshoi Ballet as he sends three contenders in pursuit of Cazoo Derby glory.

While Aidan O’Brien relies on his sole heavyweight representative from six possibles for the Classic at the start of the week, Appleby’s Godolphin team numbers Hurricane Lane, One Ruler and Adayar at Epsom on Saturday.

They are among a clutch of worthy opponents to Ballydoyle’s Bolshoi Ballet – including Jim Bolger’s Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Mac Swiney, as well as the remainder of the Newmarket challenge, William Haggas’ Mohaafeth, Ed Dunlop’s John Leeper and Third Realm from Roger Varian’s yard.

Appleby’s unbeaten Dante Stakes winner Hurricane Lane is the choice of number one jockey William Buick, as the partnership bid for a second win in the blue riband after Masar in 2018. One Ruler, who was sixth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month, will be ridden by James Doyle, with Adam Kirby on Adayar.

Appleby said: “One Ruler has solid Group One two-year-old form and is a Group Three winner at two as well in winning the Autumn Stakes, which is a great race to have coming into a three-year-old career.

“Hurricane Lane, on the other hand, had one run on bottomless ground at the back end of last year at Newmarket. He then came out and did what he did at Newbury before going to York. He comes here as an unexposed horse. He wouldn’t have the natural pace of One Ruler.

“As we saw in the Dante, his best work was in the last couple of hundred yards. Everything bodes well to step him up to a mile and a half – it might bring about further improvement.”

One Ruler is, of course, also trying the Derby trip for the first time.

Appleby added: “One Ruler is a different horse when he comes to the track – he just lights up more.

“James said, although it was quick in the Guineas, he rode like a horse that would appreciate stepping up in trip.

One Ruler is among Charlie Appleby's three Derby contenders
One Ruler is among Charlie Appleby’s three Derby contenders (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“The trip is a big question mark, (but) if he is going to get a mile and a half, he has got a good chance of getting it around Epsom.”

Bolger has always been confident Mac Swiney can run right up to his best form on good ground – but Friday’s unexpected rain has eased conditions considerably in any case.

A literal reading of Mac Swiney’s career record could indicate an aptitude for very testing conditions.

He got the better of stablemate and Newmarket Guineas winner Poetic Flare in a driving finish on soft to heavy ground at the Curragh last month, but must overturn Derrinstown Derby Trial form with Bolshoi Ballet.

He will be outdoing even his brilliant sire New Approach’s Classic achievements if he adds Epsom success to his Curragh victory – because he had to settle for second in both the English and Irish Guineas before winning the 2008 Derby for Bolger.

The Coolcullen trainer reports his colt ready to run up to his best, following his hard-fought victory two weeks ago, irrespective of the ground.

“You know how well he was a couple of weeks ago, and he came out of that race very well – and he’s been fine since,” he said.

“All his best form has not been on heavy ground.

“I wouldn’t like any firm in it (this weekend) – but then I don’t like firm for any of my horses.”

Bolger is unconcerned too by either the move up in trip or the unusual situation of a one-horse Ballydoyle team.

Mac Swiney was below his best on his last meeting with Bolshoi Ballet when beaten almost seven lengths on good ground.

“Not being right when he was beaten (behind Bolshoi Ballet) at Leopardstown, that’s all been very well-documented,” said Bolger.

“(The extra distance) is not a concern.

“I’m training my own horse, and I’m not concerned with how many any (other) trainer runs in the race.”

Victory for John Leeper would be a fairytale outcome for a horse regally-bred out of Dunlop and owner Cristina Patino’s 2010 Oaks heroine Snow Fairy, named after the trainer’s father and to be ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Dunlop said: “It is probably one of the more interesting stories of the race.

“Having a horse named after my father is very exciting, and it creates a little bit of pressure for everyone – but at the moment the horse has no idea there is any pressure on him, so hopefully we can enjoy it.

“Of course it is quite emotional as well, and it would be a great day if he could go on and win the Derby.”

He is hoping that inexperience will not catch out John Leeper after just three career starts, and two wins this term – including most recently in a slowly-run Listed race at Newmarket.

“There was a bit of a concern with Newmarket, because it was such a farcical race that he just latched a bit earlier than we would have liked to – and it was something we had never really seen,” Dunlop said.

“I think he did well to win at Newmarket. William (Buick) was very good. He kicked on and got on with it.

“That was all part of his learning curve. He hasn’t done much wrong so far – but there is still a long way to go, as they say.

“We always liked him last year. He had a tiny hiccup after Doncaster last year, which meant we weren’t able to run him again. He was a very big, immature horse – so he was never going to do much as a two-year-old.

“We like him, and he was bred to be liked. Many of the well-bred horses don’t turn out to be much cop, but hopefully this horse will. You hoped he could get to this stage.

“We would have been disappointed if he hadn’t won his maiden, and he has now won his Listed race, but he has now got to step up markedly to be competitive in the Derby.

“The trip should be up his street, because his mum won the Oaks – I’d be surprised if there was any problem with the trip.

Mohaafeth has been a revelation this spring, with three increasingly emphatic victories.

The rain will not have helped his cause, and it is possible his participation may depend on no further deterioration. But Haggas is not fazed at least that the Shadwell Estate-owned colt has a draw towards the inside.

“There’s not a lot I can do about the draw (stall four) – it is what it is,” he said.

“That’s for the jockey to work out.

“When we bought him as a yearling, he was our ‘Derby’ horse in big inverted commas. When he went to Lingfield in March (for a novice, first time out, after two defeats last year) I didn’t think he was our Derby horse.

Mohaafeth was a easy winner at Newmarket
Mohaafeth was an easy winner at Newmarket (John Walton/PA)

“But I thought he could be an Ascot horse, and it was really that effort in the Newmarket Stakes that appealed to everyone and brought him into focus.

“He’s got a chance of staying the trip. I’ve always felt it’s not a question of seeing it out, but more if they are going to improve.

“Whether he’s going to end up being better at a mile and a half than 10 furlongs, I’m not so sure, but there’s no better race to find out. We’re very keen to give it a go.

“He could be flattered or he could be improving quite quickly. There’s no greater race than the Derby – whether he’s up to it we’ll find out, but he was visually very impressive at Newmarket.

“The handicapper’s view was that it was impressive, and he stuffed him up 19lb. So we’ll see, but he needs to be 120 to win the Derby.”

Third Realm put in a notably professional performance to beat Adayar on only his third start in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

Varian said: “He’s not a big horse – he’s a small-to-medium colt. He’s very well balanced, he’s got gate speed and I’m quite confident he’s going to get the trip.

“We always liked him. He had a setback in May or June last year – otherwise he could have easily run at the back-end of the summer.

“We had to wait, and he only had the one start in November, but he did very well through the winter – he thrived in January, February and March.

“We had him earmarked for a Derby trial, and we’re obviously delighted with how he’s progressed over the last two months.”

Third Realm has the evident disadvantage of being drawn in stall two – but so too was Varian’s sole previous Derby runner, 2012 runner-up Kingston Hill.

“He’s versatile (tactically),” the trainer added, of Third Realm.

“He’s got gate speed, he can relax in behind horses and has shown a turn of foot. He’s pretty straightforward, and I think he’s the type of horse Andrea (Atzeni) could put anywhere – which is comforting, going into a race like this.

“The Derby is always a test of horses, because it comes early in the season, but I think he’s shown his worth – he deserves to be in the line-up.”

Gear Up must improve from his performance in the Dante Stakes
Gear Up must improve from his performance in the Dante Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer of Gear Up, retains faith too – despite an underwhelming return when only fifth in the Dante.

“It was not a bad run, but it was not a particularly good run – it was just OK,” he said.

“I thought he was in a reasonably good pitch, and I would have not swapped him three furlongs out. I thought of those chasing the leaders he looked the most likely at that point.

“The eventual first and second had another gear than him from two out, and he plugged on at one pace at the finish. He is sure to be better over an extra two furlongs.”

Andrew Balding’s Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit is bidding to go one better than the yard’s Khalifa Sat did when a 50-1 runner-up, in the same colours, 12 months ago.

The Kingsclere trainer said: “We always liked the horse, and it was a relief that he stayed the mile and a half at Chester well – because that was the one big question mark.

“He is one of the few in the field we know will get the trip, and that has got to be to his advantage in a very deep race that will take some winning.

“It would be lovely if we could go one better than last year – but the owner, trainer and jockey would be very satisfied with a podium finish.”