COOLCULLEN maestro Jim Bolger limbered up for this week’s Royal Ascot meeting with a double courtesy of Club Wexford and Leitir Mor at Leopardstown on Thursday evening.
After a number of days broken weather the Foxrock venue rode on the yielding side of good and this, if anything, helped the Bolger runners.
Club Wexford, who had been placed in all his three previous starts including one at group level, was a warm order in the seven furlong maiden for two-year-olds. He did the business with the minimum of fuss.
Breaking smartly, the son of Lawman made every post a winning one and was not unduly knocked about to beat his main market rival Zakhm by a length and a quarter. This was a good display by the winner and while Bolger has nothing set in stone for him the Railway Stakes at the Curragh is the most likely target.
Leitir Mor must be one of the toughest horses in training. An unusually busy juvenile campaign saw him win at Group Three level and finish second on no fewer than seven times including a terrific run when finishing second to stablemate Dawn Approach in the Dewhurst Stakes.
This season he has taken in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket as well as a Listed contest at Naas and, after landing the Group Three Ballycorus Stakes over seven furlongs, he was confirmed a definite runner in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Easy to back as the heavy hitters plunged on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Reply, Kevin Manning’s mount was settled on the tail of the leaders. He looked in trouble briefly as the pace quickened with a couple of furlongs left, but finished strongly to get up close to home and land the spoils by a neck from Lily’s Angle.
By the Coolmore-based stallion Holy Roman Emperor and out of the unraced Galileo mare Christians Letter, the winner was crediting his dam with her first success. Win lose or draw at the Royal meeting he will be kept on the go and looks sure to add to his collection before the year is out.
There were some nostalgic scenes before the start of the Group Three Ballyogan Stakes when a minute’s silence was held for leading English trainer Henry Cecil, who passed away earlier in the week. Cecil’s wife Julie was granted a licence by the British authorities and she sent over Tickled Pint which started favourite under stable jockey Tom Queally, but there was no happy ending as the four-year-old faded inside the final furlong and had to be content with fifth place.
At the business end it was Fiesolana that came from off the pace to lead in the closing stages and take the money by a an extended length from Boston Rocker. This was the first success at group level for trainer Willie McCreery, whose people hail from Kilkenny.
A former Kildare footballer, McCreery has assembled a nice string of horses at Rathbride on the Curragh and is enjoying an excellent strike rate. Having saddled six seconds in listed races last year he felt that he had missed the bus, but this filly is tough and game. She got a nice split on the inside and although encountering the worst of the ground finished strongly. McCreery has no firm plans for her, but will consult with the owners before deciding on which route to take.
Aidan O’Brien had his now customary winner when Bracelet justified cramped odds to take the opening juvenile fillies maiden in the hands of the trainer’s son Joseph. Given time to find her feet in this seven furlong contest Bracelet made smooth progress to lead well inside the last furlong and win going away from the long-time leader Tap Dancing by a couple of lengths.
This pair were no less than 12 lengths clear of the third finisher Muileata, which would suggest that they are above average. Expect to see the runner-up shed her maiden tag sooner rather than later.
Although Charles O’Brien was never destined to scale the same heights as his legendary father Vincent he still turns out his share of winners from his Kildare base. He was in double form with both Edith Cowan and Henry Higgins visiting the winners enclosure.
A well-backed favourite, Edith Cowan had little difficulty taking the mile apprentice handicap to give jockey Ray Dawson a comeback winner after spending nine months on the sidelines after failing a drugs test.
The Jeremy gelding Henry Higgins did the business in equally impressive fashion under Fran Berry to capture the mile and two handicap.