Horse Racing is very much a case of the haves and the have nots. As I all too well from a sadly very brief spell as the late Oliver Cunningham’s ad hoc Racing Manager. Such a divide is even more prevalent on the Flat. No matter which sector of the sport a trainer may be in, the one common thread they all share is a desire to have what they all term a good ‘Saturday horse’.
Inference being that, with a few notable exceptions, a lot of the biggest races, in either sphere of the sport, take place on the second last day of the week. The thing is, whatever about competing with the Mullins’, Elliotts, Meades, Nicholls’ and Hendersons of the jumps world, attempting to usurp the likes of Coolmore and the Arab operations would appear futile at best to most.
Yet there is one man who continually takes them on – and quite often overhauls them. What Jim Bolger has achieved – even during my lifetime – never mind the decades prior to yours truly being airlifted into the world – is truly remarkable. You must remember, he started his career training career at Lohunda – ironically adjacent to Oliver Cunningham’s Funeral Directors business – at least four decades ago.
Yes, Kevin Prendergast has shown equally commendable longevity. However, there is one major difference. Where Kevin has, deservedly, had the backing of some of the Arab operations, Jim has, to a large extent, swept all before him with his own stock. Literally. Through the auspices of the Redmondstown Stud operation he runs with his brother Paddy.
From whence such luminaries of the equine world as Teofilo, New Approach, Dawn Approach, Mr Greeley and Intense Focus have emerged. And that, of course, is without mention of the Galacticos of the saddle and the greatest exponent of the training craft the sport has ever been blessed to observe.
Just consider such names as Paul Carberry and Mick Fitzgerald and a couple of other lads called Anthony McCoy and Aidan O’Brien, and that would still only represent a fraction of Wexford wizard’s contribution to racing and bloodstock.
On the evidence of today’s events at home and abroad, thankfully there appears to be no sign of it abating anytime soon. Even though he’s not that far off his eighth decade.
While it must be stated that in more recent years he has benefitted from having some Goldolphin stock in his care – this corner reckons he was actually the first Irish handler bestowed with same – the vast majority of his winners are homebreds. Including his pair of victors this afternoon.
Namely, Flying Visit (10/3) who got the better of short priced favourite Carlisle Bay and the highly touted Wuqood from the Dermot Weld yard before, even more significantly, Mac Swiney became the latest resident of Glebe House to claim what to us hacks of certain vintage will always be the Racing Post Trophy, coming home with a late charge to give Bolger another gong at the highest level having also had a number of winners in the Dewhurst Stakes – another recognised apprenticeship for the Classics.
It’s said that when training at Lohunda, he used to gallop his then yearlings after his Christmas dinner in preparation for the forthcoming season. So, if you’re near Coolcullen walking off the big feed keep an eye out. You might just see a superstar in the making.