Irish Racing Review – August 14th, 2013
Jim Bolger has long had his own way of doing things – indeed it could be said that he rewrites the book on training racehorses, so much so punters find him hard to read – but last Sunday we saw what can go wrong when the Bolger method is applied too forcefully with both Dawn Approach and Scintillula disappointing after a number of quick runs.
There are few things better than watching a Bolger horse thrive through a series of wins in quick succession, with seemingly little need for rest, but – and I write this at the risk of overvaluing recent evidence – there are times when Bolger’s approach comes back and bites him in the backside, not that the ever righteous trainer would care to admit it!
Bolger campaigns group horses like handicappers, Scintillula having six runs in 52 days lately, and as a rule it’s best not to do this or at very least it is rare than a horse manages to maintain its form through a long period. In group races, horses are sternly tested; they frequently run fast with pacemakers often employed and are competing against stiff competition. It is unusual when such a horse holds it form throughout a series of these races, as Sea The Stars did, which makes such horses so memorable.
Certainly there is something admirable in the way Bolger campaigns his horses and I am all for this aggressive approach, racehorses are made to run and that is what they should do provided they are sound. But there is a limit and there are times when Bolger’s methods become more ridiculous than sublime and he gives them an extra run or two that sends them over the edge.
Take some of his best horses of recent years as examples: Alexander Goldrun won just one of her last eleven starts, Finsceal Beo lost her last nine, Lush Lashes her last eight.
Clearly these comparisons with something like Dawn Approach are imperfect; the above trio are all fillies and few horses win their final start no more than any other start but all were multiple Group 1 winners that finished their careers on a down note and perhaps the trainer pushed things too far. When a horse starts to go wrong, the best thing is to give it a rest rather than push on as at this point injuries are more likely to occur or a previously sound temperament may go sour.
With Dawn Approach, it is possible that the trainer has already asked too much of the horse. It is mid-August and last year’s Champion Two-Year-Old has had five foreign trips with the prospect of more to come. He bounced back from a terrible run in the Derby though in hindsight he didn’t have a hard race but was then asked to back up quickly after a tough encounter in the Sussex.
He is now on a course of antibiotics following his Marois fifth and this isn’t the time of year to be meeting with a training setback with so many big races looming. It will be one of Jim Bolger’s greatest achievements if he can manage to get him back to Group 1-winning form from this.
None of this is to suggest that Bolger can change his methods; one is reminded of a comment a few years back when Peter Chapple-Hyam tried to take his focus away from getting two-year-old winners and concentrate on a more gradual approach. Instead of an increased number of three-year-old winners, Chapple-Hyam found himself with few winners at all so he reverted back to what he knew.
It is difficult for a leopard to change his spots but looking at the figures for the previous Bolger inmates that finished their careers on long losing runs, there is certainly betting value in opposing such horses in the latter part of their racing lives.
I got through the replays of the flat races for Galway in the past few days and as ever there were eye-catchers aplenty on the tricky Western track so here are five of the best.
Ravello Again was a most unlucky loser in the 3yo handicap over 7f on Monday, a race that already looks decent form. The finish was dominated by horses that raced on the pace but Ravello Again was held up; she got chopped off badly leaving the dip and lost at least 3 lengths, stayed on under an easy time in the straight, beaten little more than 3 lengths, and this on her first run since February so there should be improvement to come.
The trainer’s daughter was aboard Zip Wire in the 1m4f amateur riders maiden on Wednesday and she was little assistance from the saddle; allowed the race to get away from her leaving the dip despite having plenty of horse under her, the gelding stayed on well in the finish and should be winning a maiden soon, his previous form working out well.
Friday’s feature, the Guinness Handicap over 1m4f was fought out by a pair that shaped better than the form. A really likeable effort from the winner Curley Bill, very keen early held up off slow pace, took a couple of false steps early on, sweeping move around outer coming out of dip, really quickening up well and finding enough in closing stages, won’t be getting much of a rise for this.
The second Bayan lost position coming down the hill, finding himself nearer last than first, had to come through traffic then wide in straight, conceded first run to winner, found loads, looks on fair mark.
Considering the time of year, the 1m4f maiden for fillies on Saturday was a strong contest and it resulted in an impressive win from Exotic; came from last, raced wide, smart turn-of-foot, not easy for debutants to win here and beat the right horses, the ones open to progress.