COOLCULLEN trainer Jim Bolger has made a great start to the new flat season, recording winners at both the Curragh and Leopardstown.
Dawn Approach, the eagerly-awaited first runner of the great New Approach, did the business at the Curragh on the opening day of the season, putting in a performance in the shape of a horse that we will be hearing more about.
Vibes from the stable suggested that Dawn Approach was working well and, as a consequence, he went to post a warm favourite for the first two-year-old race of the season over five furlongs. Always travelling sweetly under Kevin Manning, he moved to the head of affairs at the furlong marker and was not unduly knocked when beating Canary Row by a length and three-parts.
While the form of these early juvenile contests are notoriously difficult to assess there is no doubt that the winner did the job well. On pedigree at least Dawn Approach would need a longer trip and this is likely to happen on his next outing, when he will also be stepped up in class, but only time will tell if he is capable of filling the boots of his sire.
It was interesting to see young Joseph O’Brien ride all the fancied runners except Twirl from the Ballydoyle yard of his father Aidan. There was no comment from the trainer about riding arrangements for the coming season - even though they drew a blank it looks like Joseph will be getting the bulk of the rides from the stable.
David Wachman was also quick out of the blocks recording a double that included the mile Group Three Park Express Stakes courtesy of Chrysanthemum.
A smart juvenile, the Danehill Dancer filly had Listed And Group victories to her credit in her first two starts and was subsequently placed at Group One. First time blinkers obviously helped here as she was always close to the pace before taking the lead a furlong or so out and running on well to beat Twirl by a length and a half.
In his post race remarks Wachman revealed that his charge likes a cut in the ground and this will determine where she goes from here. He also reported that he had a solid string for the season ahead and this was borne out when he captured the mile three-year-old maiden with Amira’s Prince.
Although he was weak in the betting market, the Teofilo colt showed that he has plenty of ability by setting off in front. Keeping his rivals on the stretch, the winner passed the post three and a quarter lengths to the good over Speaking Of Which.
Still raw and green according to Wachman, Amira’s Prince is not short on stamina. He could well develop into a useful ten furlongs horse before the year is out.
Leopardstown was a happy hunting ground for Jim Bolger on Wednesday evening as he recorded a brace. He went within a neck of making it a three timer when the rank outsider Dynamite Dixie failed to upset the favourite Azamata in the mile and two maiden for colts and geldings.
Light Heavy got the trainer off the mark with a stylish victory in the mile conditions race for three-year-olds and put himself in line for a tilt at some of the Derby trials over the coming weeks. Beaten a neck by Frontier on his only outing as a juvenile at Navan, the chestnut son of Teofilo was easy enough to back as the heavy hitters plumped for the Aidan O’Brien runner Furner’s Green. Tere was also considerable money for the Wachman representative Alkazim.
Wearing a tongue strap and cheekpieces Light Heavy looked in trouble when he was first to come under pressure well before the straight. However, he showed plenty of resolve when Kevin Manning got stuck into him and he collared Furner’s Green well inside the final furlong before taking the money by half a length.
This was as gutsy a display as one could wish to see. Bolger intimated post race that he will now have a look at the Ballysax Stakes among others as his next target.
The Green Desert filly Vastitas completed the double when she created a 16/1 upset in the 50-75 rated handicap over seven furlongs.
A Roscommon maiden winner last Summer, Vastitas has subsequently dropped down the ratings due to a few indifferent displays but she bounced back to form in no uncertain fashion by making every yard of the running and finding plenty when needed to see off the challenge of Oifa by a length and a half.
Versatile in terms of ground, the winner will be kept on the go. On this evidence she looks capable of adding to her collection before very long.
Aidan and Joseph O’Brien got off the mark for the season when the Galileo colt Robin Hood turned the mile and two 60-100 handicap into a precession. Always at the head of affairs, Robin Hood had to dig deep in the closing stages but held on to beat Rising Wind by a diminishing three lengths.