Racing: Spot Thedifference still Bolger's banker

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The Independent Online

Spot Thedifference surged along nicely, but it was only when he leaped on and off the mounds at Bolger's bespoke working grounds that his true talent was obvious. He was as agile and foot-perfect as a city cat on its way back over the roofs for supper.

Spot Thedifference is rising 13 and may not be the animal which has compiled a formidable contemporary record over the Cheltenham version of racing's obstacle courses. The gelding won the first cross-country race ever staged at the Festival in March, a victory which completed a seasonal hat-trick over the Sporting Index-sponsored course. Now he has to set it all off again next month as old age and young wolves close in. "Maybe he's like wine," Bolger says. "He's an old horse but he minds himself well."

Banks racing is Jeux sans Frontières for horses, in which the attributes of speed and stamina are not enough as banks, walls and a variety obstacles have to be cleared. Contestants also have to possess quickness of foot and mind. "The horses have to use their feet and brains in a different way," Bolger says. "They have to move differently and get their brains switched on. It makes a horse more clever."

"It's something different - away from the humdrum of the same races all over again - and it's always great to get out there and see the thing up front and close."

Elegant Lord was a milestone in Bolger's career. When he won the 1996 Foxhunters' at Cheltenham it broke a wicked Festival spell for his jockey. "I'd never jumped the last fence there before," he says.

JP McManus's gelding was the only winning favourite at the meeting. "JP was in the trenches that week," Bolger adds, "and for JP the trenches would be fairly bad."

McManus remains a key figure in Bolger's operation and owns 20 of the 26 horses that pop around Bruree.