Bolger's approach yields dividends in autumn of career
Irish ally of Turf's rival superpowers poised to land fifth Dewhurst victory in seven years
It is an eye that famously misses nothing – and so, in turn, remains eye of the storm. For everyone else, not least Frankie Dettori, the sport's rival empires only ever converge in tempests of cold pride and hot emotion. Yet somehow Jim Bolger navigates calmly between them, a steely, seasoned admiral who has uniquely harnessed the contrary trade winds of both Sheikh Mohammed and John Magnier.
The latter, along with his partners at Coolmore, is indebted to Bolger not only as mentor of their trainer, Aidan O'Brien, but also as breeder of the champions who gave such impetus to the stud career of Galileo. The sheikh, meanwhile, has identified Bolger as a precious conduit to the Coolmore bloodlines he painfully abjured – to the transparent detriment of his stock – at public auction.
On Saturday, the Co Carlow trainer saddles Dawn Approach as hot favourite for the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, a prize he has won four times in the past six years. One of three Royal Ascot winners from a first crop, Dawn Approach is flagship of an explosive start to the stud career of New Approach, the Galileo colt Bolger sold to the sheikh before he won the 2008 Derby. Dawn Approach himself now runs in Godolphin silks.
New Approach yearlings will be in corresponding demand during the big sale that opened at Tattersalls in Newmarket yesterday. Few buyers, however, will have wit or craft enough to borrow Bolger's own strategy. He loves to see others dismiss the family tree on a catalogue page because recent branches have borne little fruit. "So long as there's some Group One by the fourth dam, and no bum sires," he stipulates. "The agents don't buy those 'blanks', so I can – and then try to fill them in."
As it happens, Bolger has already sold his yearling sister to Dawn Approach – at a sale back in Ireland, last week – for €775,000 (£624,000). "I've always said it's better to be born lucky than rich," he pronounces. While it sooner looks a matter of judgement, at the very least he has ended up as both.
His singular personality had long been expressed by the likes of St Jovite or Jet Ski Lady, who won a King George and Oaks respectively by 12 and 10 lengths. But it was Teofilo, his first Dewhurst winner in 2006, who launched new fulfilment for this complex man – arch, stubborn and inspired, with standards so unyielding that he lit a path not just for O'Brien but also the young Tony McCoy. One of Galileo's first stars, Teofilo was sold to the sheikh. By 2008, presumably using the proceeds, Bolger was renovating a decayed mansion – once owned by an uncle of Disraeli – half an hour from his Coolcullen base and transforming its estate into a sumptuous new wing for his training operation.
Last week he boxed Dawn Approach across to work over a gallop woven out of historic transplants from Newmarket and the Curragh and Leopardstown. The unbeaten colt was escorted, as usual, by Leitir Mor. "It's the first time I've had a Group Three winner as a work horse or pacemaker," Bolger remarks. "The hard part is that I can't sell Leitir Mor. He's too valuable. He'll bring any horse to the furlong marker."
The superior colt did have a price, however. Having sold the sheikh a majority stake, Bolger does not yet know whether Dawn Approach will be transferred to one of the Godolphin trainers for his Classic campaign. Regardless, he views the colt as essentially a miler. The Derby could instead beckon Trading Leather, a son of Teofilo who recently won his maiden by seven lengths. He, too, appears on the Future Champions' Day card, in the Autumn Stakes.
Even if Dawn Approach happens to be beaten by Dundonnell, Bolger's Dewhurst streak would not have run dry. Prior to Dundonnell's emergence, Bolger bought his dam – a sister to Danehill, no less – for just $9,000. Dawn Approach's mother had herself cost little more, at $16,000. "She was a gorgeous mare, very correct," Bolger says. "New Approach was strong, but mean and lean, whereas this fellow is more rounded. He'd be more mature, at this stage, and has a better temperament."
His best horses, male or female, have been conspicuously robust, as though conforming to the work ethic that pervades the stable. As for his own appetite, at 70, he shrugs. "It's not really hard work. It's constant work. At this stage, I've no ambitions whatsoever. But I'm between a rock and a hard place, when it comes to retirement. I have a staff of 100 and, basically, I'm working for them the last few years. As far as I can ascertain, they'd like me to continue."
He does so, however, with fresh satisfaction. "I did feel, at one stage in my brief career, that I hadn't produced a stallion," he admits. "So it's nice to get that job done, anyway."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Tamarkuz (8.0 Kempton) Tricky draw, but looks fairly treated for his handicap debut.
Royal Dutch (8.30 Kempton) Progressing well in early stages of his handicap career, set plenty to do when finishing well last time.
One to watch
Blazeofenchantment (Noel Quinlan) Shaped well for his new trainer at Wolverhampton last week, rather detached from the action but keeping on nicely after being short of room.
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