Jim Bolger is a phenomenon on the international horse racing scene. A self-made man like no other in racing, the fact that he progressed from the bottom to the top of the training game is a remarkable achievement in itself, but in the last number of years, Bolger has become more self-sufficient than any top trainer around the world, with his world-class breeding programme producing the majority of the horses he trains.
This breeding pool has produced top-class performers such as Teofilo, Trading Leather and Dawn Approach, who, Bolger trained to win multiple Group 1 races.
While 2016 was not one of Bolger’s more successful seasons with the stable struggling with ringworm, he looks to have an array of promising horses in his care for the 2017 campaign, headed by Dubai Sand and Zorion, as well as a notably strong bunch of older horses including Stellar Mass, Moonlight Magic and Smash Williams.
Here, Bolger was good enough to sit down with Kevin Blake of attheraces.com and discuss his string.
6 ch h Teofilo – Raghida
Rated 108, he won the Group 3 Gladness Stakes at the Curragh in April 2015 and has acquitted himself well in similar company without winning since then.
“He had a little setback about a month ago, but he’s doing well at the moment. Whatever day he gets it all together, he’s going to win a Group 1! He’s just a horse that finds it hard to get all his ducks in a row. He’s not ungenuine in any way, but being charitable to him, he is a bit quirky. Given the choice of the perfect circumstances for him, I’d say seven furlongs at the Curragh with a little ease in the ground and a smooth run through the race.”
4 ch f New Approach – Maria Lee
Rated 97, she won a Listed race at Newmarket in October 2015 and ran well without winning in stakes company in 2016.
“She’s done well over the winter. At the moment I’m resisting the temptation to have her covered, as she’s a big mare and I think she could improve this year and maybe even next year. It’s not easy to know when she’s spot on, as she doesn’t have a lot of personality, but I do think there is a good day in her. I don’t think she needs an ease in the ground as much as we thought she did earlier in her life.”
HERALD THE DAWN
4 b c New Approach – Hymn Of The Dawn
Rated 107, he won the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh as a juvenile, but failed to trouble the judge in two starts as a three-year-old.
“We lost our way last year, he and I. He got a bad bout of ringworm that set him back a good bit and we didn’t make it back to the track with him later in the year, so I’m hoping that we’ll get him back to where he was as a two-year-old. He’s definitely a Group 1 horse, but I have to get him in Group 1 form for him to show it. He is still a little way off a run, but a mile is his trip and I think he is versatile with regard to ground.”
4 b c New Approach – La Conquistadora
Rated 88, he made an impressive winning debut in a maiden at Leopardstown in August, but was well held in only subsequent start in a valuable handicap at Naas in October.
“He’s a big, late-developing horse. We took a chance with him on soft-to-heavy ground at Naas in his last start and it just caught him out. He had a little setback in the spring and I don’t see him running before June. He could be a stakes-class horse over middle-distances and is likely to still be in training next year, as he’s still big and backward.”
4 b c Cape Cross – Melikah
Rated 116, he won the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown last year prior to running well without winning in stronger company later in the campaign.
“He’s back and is in very good order. We never got him to top form last year. He had a bit of mucus after the Derby and he may not have relished the track either, so between those we think we know what went wrong on the day.
I think he stays a mile-and-a-half, but I’d be hopeful he can win Group 1s at a mile-and-a-quarter. He’s ready to run now and his first big objective will be the Tattersalls Gold Cup. He’s one to look forward to.”
4 b c Footstepsinthesand – Inis Boffin
Rated 107, he has improved 33lb since entering handicap company, winning four such contests in a row, and acquitted himself well when fourth in Group 3 company at Goodwood in July.
“He was very much an improver last year. He probably got himself a good mark as we made the mistake of running him on testing ground early on. I could see him winning a Group 3 this year and I think a mile-and-a-quarter is probably his best trip. He is just about ready to go.”
4 b c Teofilo – Khazina
Rated 98, he won his first two starts as a juvenile in impressive style, but met with a setback after disappointing in the Coventry Stakes that ruled him out for the season. He returned to winning ways in a handicap at Limerick in October and made a satisfactory return in a Listed race at Leopardstown in April.
“He looked like the winner turning in at Leopardstown on Wednesday, but we’re hoping that we find some reason for him cutting out as he did. I felt we had him back to his best going into that, so I’m hopeful we’ll have a good season with him. I think he’ll go on any ground.”
SANUS PER AQUAM
4 b c Teofilo – Fainne
Rated 102, he won three of his six starts as a juvenile including the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket as well as finishing third in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, but was below his best in two starts as a three-year-old and on his seasonal reappearance at Dundalk in March.
“He is a very big, backward horse, even though he was able to win a Group 3 as a two-year-old. I think I said it before that if I was a proper trainer, he wouldn’t have even run as a two-year-old! He was a victim of the ringworm problems we had last season and I think it affected his form. I was delighted with his run at Dundalk, as he is quite idle at home and he probably wasn’t fit enough to show his very best. Good ground from a mile to a mile-and-a-quarter suits him best. He is so big that I think he’ll improve every day for the next two years! “He looked like the winner turning in at Leopardstown on Wednesday, but we’re hoping that we find some reason for him cutting out as he did. I felt we had him back to his best going into that, so I’m hopeful we’ll have a good season with him. I think he’ll go on any ground.”
4 ch c Fracas – Take Flight
Rated 105, he made an impressive winning debut at the Curragh and followed up in the Group 3 Round Tower Stakes back at that track eight days later as a juvenile. He ran below form in his only start last season.
“He was the worst affected by the ringworm we had here last year. He pretty much lost every bit of hair on his body and he didn’t make it back in time to run at the backend of the season. While he won’t mind a little ease, he won’t want it too soft. He’s in great shape now and I’ll be expecting him to do very well over sprint distances this year.”
4 b c Sea The Stars – Juno Marlowe
Rated 113, he progressed into a high-class performer last season, winning the Ulster Derby and a Listed race at Down Royal prior to winning the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown.
“He’s a very exciting horse for this year. He was still a bit weak last year and I don’t think we were too hard on him, so I’m hopeful he can improve and win a Group 1 this year. He’s ready to go and will run at Naas on Sunday provided it continues to dry out, as he doesn’t want soft ground. I don’t think we’ll be looking to go any further than a mile-and-a-half with him this year and I think he can be fully effective at a mile-and-a-quarter. I’m really looking forward to him.”
4 ch c Distorted Humor – Sadler’s Secretary
Rated 91, he made a winning debut in a six-furlong maiden on the opening day of the season at the Curragh in 2016 and has run well without winning since then. He ran below form on his seasonal reappearance in the Irish Lincoln at Naas.
“He’s a not an easy horse to manage, but he has a fair level of ability. He got bogged down and ran too freely in the Irish Lincoln. I might drop him to seven furlongs next time, as that might help him to settle early on. I think he likes to get his toe in, but we’ll give him an opportunity on good ground at some stage and give him the chance to prove us wrong in our opinion on that. There could be a good day in him.”
4 b c Teofilo – Dream On Buddy
Rated 108, he progressed into a useful stayer last season, beating Forgotten Rules in a Listed race at the Curragh in September. He made a satisfactory reappearance when second in a conditions race at Leopardstown in April.
“He ran at Leopardstown on Wednesday. I thought it was a two-horse race between him and Forgotten Rules and I thought we had improved enough to give him 6lb. While I was right and he duly beat him, there was one that beat the both of us! He was very backward this time last year and after we got him fit, he did very well. I’m happy enough to let him do the talking this season, but I’d be hopeful he could make up into an Ascot Gold Cup horse for next year. I don’t think the ground is a big issue for him.”
4 b f Fastnet Rock – Beyond Compare
Rated 104, she won the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster in 2015 and acquitted herself well without winning in Group 1 company last season.
“She got ringworm last year and it didn’t help her cause. She’s back now and nothing she does will surprise me, as I’ve always thought a lot of her. She’ll be entered in all the top races for fillies. She stays a mile-and-a-quarter, but she’ll need to prove beyond doubt that she stays a mile-and-a-half. She could even run over a mile at some stage.”
4 b c Street Cry – Firth Of Lorne
Rated 96, he won a maiden at Navan in October and ran well to finish third in a Listed race at Cork 10 days later.
“He didn’t have an easy time as a two-year-old, as he got a pelvic fracture and didn’t make it back until the middle of his three-year-old season, but his best days could still be to come. I’d be hoping that we can get him up to Group standard this year and he could really come into his own next year. A mile-and-a-quarter and possibly a mile-and-a-half will suit him and I don’t think the ground is a big issue for him.”
4 b c Street Cry – Tashelka
Rated 115, he showed much-improved form on his belated return to action when winning the Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown in August prior to disappointing in the Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown.
“He is a potential Group horse and one that could even be a stallion in time. He is a bit tricky in that he is quite a gross horse, but he also seems best fresh. He’s as big as Sonny Liston at the moment, so the challenge is to do enough with him to get the weight off, but not too much as to flatten him. I think his last run last year just came a bit too soon after his win in the Desmond Stakes and we’ll be looking to give him more time between his runs this season.”
3 b f Dubawi – Speirbhean
Rated 83, she is a half-sister to Teofilo that made a promising debut at Naas in April last year, but disappointed in her two subsequent starts.
“She disappointed in her second and third runs and we stopped with her fairly soon after that. She’s in great form now and will run in the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown on Saturday. It looks a very tough task for her, but her mother went into the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown as a maiden and won it! I see her as a mile-and-a-quarter filly. She’s 16 hands and all quality, a real perfect model, so she’ll be a fine broodmare in time.”
3 b c New Approach – Punctilious
Rated 84, he showed steady progression in three starts in a maidens as a juvenile, finishing a close third to Titus at Leopardstown on the most recent occasion in October.
“I think he is a much-improved horse this year. He will go for a mile-and-a-quarter maiden at Naas on Sunday and we’ll take it from there. He’ll have no trouble getting a mile-and-a-half and I hope he can prove to be a stakes horse in the fullness of time. Good ground suits him well, he wouldn’t want it too soft.”
3 b f Fastnet Rock – Livia Galilei
Made an encouraging debut when fourth in a fillies’ maiden at Leopardstown in April.
“She isn’t the easiest to manage, as she is a bit highly-strung. We’ll probably try her over a shorter trip next time and I’d be hoping she can win her maiden. She likes soft ground. She has a fine pedigree and will make a lovely broodmare.”
3 ch c Teofilo – Bring Back Matron
Rated 104, he progressed with each of his three starts last season culminating with him breaking his maiden in the Eyrefield Stakes at Leopardstown in October.
“He’s probably the most idle horse I’ve ever trained here. I trained his father and his mother and neither of them were like that, so I’m not sure where he’s getting it from. Because of that idleness, I’m not going to know where I am with him until he runs. I’d be hoping he has improved since last year and I think he’ll get a mile-and-a-half. He’s a good ground horse and I’ll be hoping the ground continues to dry out at Leopardstown, as I’d like to run him in the Ballysax Stakes on Saturday. While he’s very idle, he doesn’t need a lot of work, so he should be straight enough in fitness terms, but I’m largely in the dark with him until he runs!”
FOCUS ON HEAVEN
3 b f Intense Focus – Sunset Beauty
Made a promising debut when a head second to Wayside Flower in a mile maiden at Naas in October.
“She ran a very good race first time out at Naas. I was hoping she would win that day, but she just bumped into one. She’s a bit slow coming to hand this year, but once she gets there she could be a really good filly, definitely stakes potential. I think she should get a mile and she likes a little ease in the ground.”
3 b c New Approach – Sway Me Now
Rated 93, he made a winning debut in a six-furlong maiden at the Curragh in October prior to disappointing in the Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown in his only other start.
He’s ready to go now. He was disappointing in the Killavullan, but it was a race we were happy to draw a line through at the time. It just didn’t work out for him. I don’t think he’ll stay much further than a mile and I don’t think any ground will be a problem for him. I definitely see him as a stakes horse.”
3 b f Lawman – Imeall Na Speire
Rated 95, she won a maiden at Gowran Park in August prior to acquitting herself well in Group 3 company later in the season. She made a satisfactory return in the Park Express Stakes at Naas in March.
“She’s very, very idle at home. We weren’t making a lot of progress with her at home, so I got her as fit as I could and ran her in the Park Express at Naas and I thought she ran a very good race considering that. She should come on nicely from it. I see her as a stakes filly and she’ll run in the Ballysax Stakes. That step up to a mile-and-a-quarter could well be just what she needs. She is ground versatile.”
3 b c War Front – Maryfield
Rated 107, he made an impressive winning debut at Leopardstown in July and went on to run well in Group company, most notably finishing second to Churchill in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh.
“I’m not quite sure where he’ll start off, as he wouldn’t want to run on soft ground. He’ll be an English or Irish Guineas horse and while I’d like to get a run into him beforehand, he could potentially start off in one of them if he doesn’t get his ground for a prep run. He’s a big horse that had a hard time of it last season between his preparation for a breeze-up sale and then his racing, but he has grown up physically and mentally over the winter. He’s a horse I like and I think there is a big day in him. I don’t think he’ll stay much further than a mile.”
3 b f High Chaparral – Take Flight
Made a promising debut when third to Landfall in a maiden at the Curragh, but ran below form when well held in a maiden at Leopardstown in September.
“If we can get it all together with her, based on what I’ve seen from her here she could be a really good filly at a mile. She isn’t the easiest filly in the world to manage, as she’s quite headstrong. She had a setback in the spring, so she won’t be out until the second half of the season.”
3 b f Vocalised – Marina Of Venice
Rated 93, she won a maiden at the Curragh in September, but ran below form on her return in the Madrid Handicap at Naas.
“She ran very green in the Madrid Handicap at Naas. She was very inexperienced going there and things just didn’t fall for her as they had when she won. She is likely to step up in trip and she might not want it as soft as it was at Naas.”
3 b c Smart Strike – Zofzig
A full-brother to the smart Zip Top, he made an impressive winning debut in a seven-furlong maiden at Roscommon in August.
“He runs in the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial on Saturday. The handicapper was very mean to me, as he wouldn’t give him a rating so I couldn’t go down the Kevin Prendergast route and try to win the Madrid with him! Though, when you consider how soft it was at Naas that might have been a blessing. I’d be expecting a good run from him on Saturday, even though it looks a hot race. The reason he didn’t run again after his debut was that he picked up a very small hairline fracture that was just about enough to finish his season on the track. He can handle soft ground, but heavy would be a doubt. He’ll probably stay a mile-and-a-quarter. He’s a horse I like and he’ll keep improving. He’s a bit more industrious than Dubai Sand, but whether he proves to be better remains to be seen."
COME AT DAWN
2 b f Dawn Approach – Luminaria
An unraced half-sister to the smart Paene Magnus, she is from the first crop of Dawn Approach.
“I think I have a nice bunch of two-year-olds. I have about a dozen by Dawn Approach and based on how they are going I wish I had more! This filly is early enough I think, but she will be better with time. I’m looking forward to her.”
STELLAR MASS – High-class middle distance performer that is open to improvement.
HERALD THE DAWN – Talented juvenile that had interrupted campaign last season.
TURRET ROCKS – High-class filly that will compete in Group 1 company.
SMASH WILLIAMS – Talented performer looking to bounce back from interrupted 2016 campaign.
MOONLIGHT MAGIC – High-class performer that is open to improvement as a four-year-old.
ZORION – Unbeaten three-year-old that could prove to be high class.
DUBAI SAND – A Listed winner as a juvenile that could be anything.