'Exactly what I was expecting' - Bolger delight as Poetic Flare runs riot
Jim Bolger knows what he is doing.
It would have been easy to question his decision to try Poetic Flare for a fourth time in Group 1 company in just 45 days, especially after Classic glory at Newmarket was followed by two defeats, but to do so was to underestimate the man.
There may not have been a St James’s Palace winner in history who has come via a Leopardstown Trial and all three major European Guineas – English, French and Irish – and there may never be another, but that is not going to stop Bolger doing what he sees as right. And when he sees something as right everyone else generally catches up eventually. As Poetic Flare surged clear at the two-furlong pole, the rest of us got there.
After the Newmarket Guineas the 79-year-old trainer described Poetic Flare as the “most complete” horse he had ever trained. That had begun to take on the air of a bit of a sales pitch when he was sixth of 12 at Longchamp, but at the Curragh he found only his similarly classy stablemate Mac Swiney a short-head too good and here they simply could not live with him. Maybe Bolger was right all along.
He was certainly keen to double-down on the statement. “He’s the best horse I’ve bred,” he said from his home in County Carlow. “He’s the first one to take it like that, Teofilo might just have done it but he didn’t get the chance to prove it as a three-year-old. He’s exceptional. I haven’t had one that can take everything he’s taken.”
The 7-2 favourite may have taken a hell of a lot but he gave it back in spades, putting four and a quarter lengths into Lucky Vega with Battleground in third. It was a dominant performance, but not one that took Bolger by surprise.
“I felt he was improving and I have to admit, genuinely, I was expecting a performance like that,” he added. “I would have taken any win, but that’s what I expected. He’s improved so much and he was so well.”
After defeat in the Irish 2,000 Guineas Bolger’s immediate thought was to give the horse a break and skip Ascot, so what changed? “I needed the break to think about it more than the horse did,” he said with a laugh. “I contemplated where to go next and everything was looking good for Royal Ascot so we carried on.”
You can certainly expect Poetic Flare to carry on. “I’d welcome competing with the older horses,” said his bullish trainer. On a day when Frankie Dettori labelled Palace Pier the best miler in the world after his Queen Anne success, the clash was understandably put to Bolger who simply added: “Whatever they can come up with.”
Day one of Royal Ascot plays host to two Group 1 mile contests. Both were won by the favourite, but anyone who only watched the two performances would have pegged Poetic Flare for the 2-7 shot – such was his superiority over his rivals.
“He’s entered in the Sussex, that’s a real possibility,” said Bolger of where the colt could go next. Palace Pier also has the race as an option and he remains the even-money favourite with St Mark's Basilica a general 4-1 and Poetic Flare cut to a best-priced 9-2 with Unibet.
Bolger has been in the news of late for his proclamations about the blight of doping in the sport but he was keen to shelf that debate for 24 hours. “The two aren’t related, I’m very happy about it [the victory] and I’d be happy to talk about the drug problems tomorrow, or the next day, but not this evening,” he said when asked.
That is in part because for Bolger, who bred, owns and trains Poetic Flare and has overseen his every day from birth to dual Group 1 winner, it was a particularly sweet victory. “I’m blessed with good health, thank God, that’s more than half the battle and I’m not afraid of a bit of work,” he said. “I have wonderful staff and I can’t praise them enough, they all play a big role here at the stable and on our two farms.”
Read more from day one of Royal Ascot 2021