SATURDAY was a great day for trainer Jim Bolger as he bridged a 21-year gap when saddling Trading Leather to land the Irish Derby at the Curragh. Not only did Bolger breed the winner, he bred and raced his sire Teofilo as well.
Ever since St Jovite won the race in 1992 Bolger yearned to stand again in the winner’s enclosure, but little did he think that it would be such a family occasion - the colt carried the colours of the trainer’s wife Jackie and was ridden by their son-in-law Kevin Manning.
Although only nine runners went to post the race looked like a renewal of the Epsom Classic as the first three home all stood their ground as well as the Sandown Classic Trial winner Sugar Boy. Ruler Of The World started favourite but he never got into contention and was some way adrift of the principals at the finish. Ralston Road from the Danesfort yard of Pat Shanahan set a scorching pace but began to tread water turning to face the judge where the Godolphin runner Cap O’Rushes took over.
At this point Kevin Manning had manoeuvred Trading Leather into a challenging position and once the combination hit the front a furlong and a half out the race was over as the Bolger runner strode majestically clear to record a length and three-parts victory over Galileo Rock with Festive Cheer finishing strongly to take third place a similar distance away.
While Ruler Of The World was disappointing connections were of the opinion that the trip caught him out. Equally so was the Epsom runner-up Libertarian, who struggled from the half-way point and beat only one home. David Wachman’s representative Galileo Rock improved on his Epsom showing and surely there is a big pot waiting for him somewhere along the line.
However, take nothing away from the winner who simply hopped off the firm ground and showed himself to be a colt of the highest order. In his post-race remarks Bolger gave credit to his staff at Coolcullen for the way they have looked after the horse, who can be difficult to handle. He is versatile in terms of trip, which opens up several possibilities including the King George or the Juddmonte International as well as the Irish Champion Stakes.
Racing is not called the glorious uncertainty for nothing as we saw when the Bolger runner Intensified was turned over at odds of 1/5 in the opening two-year-old maiden. Having finished second in both his starts to date Intensified looked a certainty to win but he failed to hold the late surge of the Tommy Stack runner Tarn and went under by three-parts of a length. Well regarded by Stack, the winner will have the Angelsey Stakes as her next target.
Aidan O’Brien never leaves meetings like this empty-handed and he was on hand to greet Count of Limonade after he beat another Bolger runner Scintillula in the mile Celebration Stakes.
Easy enough to back, the son of Duke Of Marmalade was always in the firing line. He hit the front at the two furlong marker, but had to be stoked up by Joseph O’Brien to see off Scintillula by half a length.
David Wachman has a potentially top class juvenile on his hands in the shape of Sudirman who was a game winner of the Group Two Railway Stakes over six furlongs. The Henrythenavigator colt came from off the pace to lead inside the final furlong and won by half a length from Big Time with the odds on favourite Coach House a further four and a half lengths back in third place.
The winner is clearly on the upgrade and Wachman reported that he is a slow learner. Seven furlongs is within his grasp so he must be regarded as a contender for a Grade One race before the season ends.
It was an evening to remember for rider Wayne Lordan, who booted home a three-timer. After wins aboard Tarn and Sudirman Lordan completed the treble when getting Slade Power home by half a length in the Group Three Sapphire Stakes over five furlongs. Coming with a storming run for the furlong pole, the four-year-old readily held the late surge of Russian Soul to fully justify favouritism.