Jim Bolger is a phenomenon on the international horseracing 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.
However, 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 programme has produced top-class performers such as Teofilo, Trading Leather and Dawn Approach who Bolger trained to win multiple Group 1 races.
While Bolger has not saddled a winner in either of the first two runnings of Irish Champions Weekend, he will be looking to remedy that this year.
He sat down with Kevin Blake of attheraces.com to discuss his team for the star-studded cards at Leopardstown and the Curragh.
5 ch h Teofilo – Raghida
Rated 108, he won the Group 3 Gladness Stakes at the Curragh last year and has been acquitting himself well in similar company ever since.
“He never runs a bad race. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet, which will be hard for many to believe, but we do think there is a big day in him at some stage. Though, I don’t think he’ll tell us when it’s going to be! He hasn’t won a Group 1 or Group 2 yet, but it won’t be a surprise to us if he eventually manages it. He likes a little ease in the ground and a mile is a good trip for him. If he runs on Irish Champions Weekend, it will be in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown.”
4 b f Teofilo – Toirneach
Rated 115, she progressed into a leading three-year-old filly last season, winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh and the Yorkshire Oaks at York.
"She is entered for Irish Champions Weekend, but she isn’t quite going to make it. We’ve had a frustrating season with her as she’s had a few small setbacks, but I’m hoping to have her back on track in the time for the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp.”
3 ch f New Approach – Maria Lee
Rated 101, she won a Listed race at Newmarket last October and has been acquitting herself well in stakes company this season.
“She has a few entries for Irish Champions Weekend including the Petingo Handicap at Leopardstown and if she goes there I’d expect her to run well. She met with trouble in running on her last start in the Galtres Stakes at York and might have finished second but for that. She’s holding her form well and I think there is another good day in her. She stays well, she goes on any ground and she’s very genuine.”
3 b c Cape Cross – Melikah
Rated 111, he won the Listed Eyrefield Stakes at Leopardstown last year and confirmed that promise when winning the Derrinstown Derby Trial back at Leopardstown in May. He most recently finished third in the Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh.
“I don’t think he handled Epsom at all in the Derby and the trip may well have found him out in the Irish Derby. I’m not short of excuses for him! He ran a good race when we dropped him to a mile-and-a-quarter in the Royal Whip and I feel that he will have improved from that run. The plan is to run in the Irish Champion Stakes and while he has to improve, I’ll be a bit disappointed if he isn’t in the first three. He’s bred to be that good, his dam is a half-sister to Galileo. He is a bit of a gross type of horse, but he is in great shape at the moment.”
3 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 got himself well-handicapped on soft ground by accident, but since we’ve got him on a sounder surface he has improved a lot. He ran very well in his first Group race at Goodwood last time and while I don’t think the mile-and-a-half was an issue for him there, I think stepping back to a mile in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown will suit him well.”
3 b f Teofilo – Halla Siamsa
Rated 91, she has won twice and been a consistent performer in both stakes and handicap company this season.“She hasn’t come up to our expectations this year, but we’re always hopeful. I think there is a good day in her, be it this year or next year, and I won’t be giving up on her yet. We haven’t got her fully sorted in terms of her ideal trip yet, but she can operate from a mile to a mile-and-a-half. She has an entry in the Northfields Handicap at the Curragh and if the ground is nice, she’ll run there.”
3 b c Sea The Stars – Juno Marlowe
Rated 112, he has come good in no uncertain terms in recent months, winning the Ulster Derby and a Listed race at Down Royal, as well as the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown.“He’s very much an intended runner on Irish Champions Weekend in the KPMG Enterprise Stakes, a Group 3 over a mile-and-a-half at Leopardstown. He was a bit of a late developer and was beaten a few times as a two-year-old, but it was usually a good horse that beat him. He’s improved a lot since going up in trip on better ground this year and I think there could be more improvement in him. He’s in really good form and we couldn’t be happier with him. If he holds his form until the end of the season, I’d be hopeful that he’ll be back in training next year.”
3 b c Street Cry – Tashelka
Rated 116, he won a maiden at Naas in October prior to finishing second to Blue De Vega in the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown six days later. He made a belated winning return to action in the Group 3 Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown in August.
“We had a few little problems with this fella in the first six months of the year, but he has got it together in recent months and won well on his return in a Group 3 at Leopardstown. I don’t want to be making excuses for him before he runs, but he’s not an easy horse to train in that he is quite a gross type, but at the same time he is best when he’s fresh. Hopefully we can find the right balance between fitness and freshness with him. If he’s really well next week, I’ll talk to Joe Osborne of Darley about possibly supplementing him for Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown.”
3 b f Fastnet Rock – Beyond Compare
Rated 105, she won the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster last year and has been acquitting herself well in Group 1 company this season. “She was very good last year, but hasn’t managed to get her head in front yet this year. She probably wasn’t at the very top of her game in the first half of the season, but she’s very well now. We’re going to take a chance and drop her back to a mile for the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, but it’s a very hot race. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll bring her back up to a mile-and-a-quarter for the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp. The hope will be that she’ll be back in training as a four-year-old next year.”
2 b f Dubawi – Speirbhean
Rated 86, she was touched off by Psychedelic Funk in a maiden at Naas in April, but has run below that form in two subsequent starts.
“She is a half-sister to Teofilo. She could well run in the fillies’ maiden at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend, but the Moyglare Stud Stakes would also be an option for her. She’s in good order now and hopefully she’s getting back to the form she was in for her first start which was a smart run. She might not have been cherry ripe for her last start at the Curragh and I’d be hopeful she can improve from that. Whatever she does this year, I consider her a lovely prospect for next year.”
2 b c War Front – Maryfield
Rated 107, he made a winning debut at Leopardstown in July and has since acquitted himself well in two starts in Group company, most recently finishing second to Churchill in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh.
"We got him from a breeze-up sale in America and he put up a good show to win on his debut at Leopardstown. I wasn’t sure what his best trip was, but I had my eye on the Phoenix Stakes for him, so I ran him in the Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh and six furlongs just looked a bit short for him. We stepped him up in trip for the Futurity and he ran a lovely race to finish second to Churchill. Hopefully there won’t be a Churchill to contend with in the Group 3 at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend and he should run a big race. Longer term, he could well end up running in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf later in the season.”
2 b f High Chaparral – Take Flight
A half-sister to Smash Williams, she made a promising debut when third to Landfall in a maiden at the Curragh in August.
“She was third at the Curragh on debut and the type of filly she is, she was always going to learn a lot from her first day at the races. She should improve a nice bit from that and we’d be hopeful that she could be a Classic prospect for next season. She could run in the fillies’ maiden at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend and if she does, I’d expect her to run a very good race.”