Things We Learned » Jim’s juveniles

Jim’s juveniles

Future Champions day at Newmarket last Saturday was an important one for Jim Bolger’s juveniles, and they performed. Not only did Dawn Approach win the Dewhurst, thereby providing Bolger with his fifth win in the race in seven years, but his stable companion Leitir Mor chased him home. Also, Trading Leather proved to a British audience when he won the Autumn Stakes that he was a genuine 2013 Derby prospect, a notion that his Irish audience who saw him win at Gowran Park last month already had in the back of their minds.

The Bolger juveniles’ exploits in 2012 don’t start and end with Newmarket last Saturday. Grafelli won two Group 3 contests, beating subsequent listed race winner Lines Of Battle in the latter. Move To Strike was a nine-length winner of his maiden, and was fourth when favourite for the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot the last time we saw him. With highly capable-looking maidens like Wexford Opera, Hudson’s Bay and Scintillula, it has been a big year for the Coolcullen juveniles, and they may not be finished yet.

Astute Approach

Speaking of Coolcullen, the news that Dawn Approach will remain with Jim Bolger for the winter was big news on a number of fronts, much bigger news than the media space it has been afforded to date.

It is a very unusual move for Sheikh Mohammed to leave a newly-acquired racehorse with the trainer from whom it has been newly-acquired once it has joined Godolphin. The Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum and the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum horses generally trade their yellow or green silks for Godolphin blue, if they are good enough, and join either Saeed Bin Suroor or Mahmood Al Zarooni.

History tells us that new purchases from other yards follow suit: Refuse To Bend, Schiaparelli, All The Good, Cherry Mix, Electrocutionist, Gladiatorus, even the Jim Bolger-trained Creachadoir – they all joined a Godolphin trainer when they started to race in blue. The 2008 Derby winner New Approach, of course, stayed with Bolger, but he raced in Princess Haya’s green and black silks, not in the Godolphin royal blue.

This decision has gone a little under the radar, but it is hugely significant, not only because of what it says about Sheikh Mohammed’s opinion of Jim Bolger as a racehorse trainer, but also because of its rarity value. The last Godolphin big race winner before Dawn Approach who wasn’t trained by Bin Suroor or Al Zarooni was Cezanne, the 1994 Irish Champion Stakes winner. Interestingly, another new Godolphin acquisition, Middle Park winner Reckless Abandon, is reportedly set to remain with Clive Cox. Perhaps there is a fundamental shift in Godolphin strategy taking place.

The fact that Dawn Approach remains with Bolger probably enhances the colt’s prospects of winning next year’s 2000 Guineas significantly. Godolphin’s record in the 2000 Guineas since the turn of the millennium reads 00400900000205900009000. Jim Bolger’s record reads 623.

It looks like an astute decision by Sheikh Mohammed.

Euphrasia blooms

Euphrasia put up an impressive performance to land the nine-furlong fillies’ maiden at The Curragh on Sunday. Joseph Murphy’s filly came right away inside the final furlong to win well, getting through the heavy ground easily and coming eight lengths clear of her rivals, despite the fact that Gary Carroll wasn’t unduly hard on her through the closing stages.

A daughter of Windsor Knot, she obviously handles this heavy ground well. Her best performance in three previous runs was on the only other occasion on which she encountered heavy ground (her other two runs were on Polytrack). The second and third fillies home on Sunday were newcomers, but the time of the race was good, the fastest non-sprint on the card.

Euphrasia is progressive, and she will be of interest if she races again this season on soft or heavy ground. If she doesn’t, it could be worth keeping an eye out for her in a good handicap on easy ground early next term. A 9lb hike looks harsh enough on the face of it, but a mark of 76 may still under-estimate her ability on this ground.

Punchestown loss

It was disappointing that Punchestown’s fixture on Wednesday succumbed to the elements. Fair play to the racecourse executive for re-routing the Grade 3 mares’ hurdle to Thursday, and the winner Tarla picked up where she had left off before her disappointing run at Listowel in shaping like another really exciting recruit to Willie Mullins’s team. There were several other performances of note on Thursday’s card, but the beginners’ chase scheduled for Wednesday was a particularly appetite-whetting affair, with top novice hurdlers from last year Mount Benbulben, Lyreen Legend and Sword Of Destiny set to clash over two and a half miles, so it was a real shame that the race was lost.

It is always a thrill to see the novice chasers at the start of every new National Hunt season. We have already seen Fingal Bay and Sea Of Thunder jump fences this season, and we saw Arvika Ligeonnaire last May. The rest will follow soon, no doubt. We’re on the brink now.

Trainers’ title

One of the things that has got a little lost on Frankelday is that today is also the day on which the 2012 British trainers’ championship could be decided. Aidan O’Brien’s 11 wins and 25 places have earned his owners a total of just over £2.8 million, which leaves him just under £500,000 behind John Gosden (106 wins and 254 places) going into the final days.

Given the sheer magnitude of prize money that is on offer at Ascot today, that is not an unbridgeable gap. O’Brien would actually go marginally in front if the 4/6 favourite Excelebration wins the QE2. Gosden has the 5/2 favourite for the Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes in Great Heavens, he has Elusive Kate for the QE2 and Aiken for the Long Distance Cup, and he obviously has Nathaniel for the Champion Stakes itself, with significant prize money stretching all the way to sixth place.

However, as well as fielding the odds-on favourite for the QE2, O’Brien also sends Fame And Glory to Ascot for the Long Distance Cup, and Oaks winner Was for the Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes. This one could go down to the wire.

© The Irish Field, 20th October 2012