COOLCULLEN trainer Jim Bolger certainly made his presence felt on the opening day of the flat season at the Curragh.
Bolger recorded a fabulous four-timer and threw up a possible Classic contender when Rhen’s Nest turned over odds-on favourite Yellow Rosebud in the Group Three Lodge Park Stakes over a mile.
Always close to the pace Rhen’s Nest responded well to the urgings of Rory Cleary to hit the front a furlong or so out and went on to land the spoils by a length and three-parts from Yellow Rosebud. A first Group winner for her, Rhen’s Nest could be a lively outsider for the Epsom Oaks.
Bolger opened his account when Saburu justified strong support to take the first two-year-old race of the year over five furlongs in workmanlike fashion. The heavy ground didn’t help but the Cape Cross colt pulled out plenty when entering the final furlong to see off My Sapphire by two and a quarter lengths.
In his post-race remarks Bolger revealed that he has liked this fellow from day one and advised punters to follow him until he gets beaten. He will go down the same route as last year’s winner Dawn Approach and, on this evidence, looks destined for better things.
Caesaria gave Bolger and stable jockey their second success of the afternoon when he got up close home to capture the six furlong maiden for three-year-olds and over.
Easy to back
The Hannouma colt was easy enough to back as punters settled on Master Speaker. The market leader hit the front inside the last furlong, but was unable to withstand the final flourish of Caesaria and went under by a head.
Out of a Grand Lodge mare and a winner over a mile and four in France Caesaria looks certain to stay further and better ground would be a big help. He showed a likeable attitude when Manning put the gun to his head in the closing stages.
Bolger completed his quartet and Manning his hat-trick when Alpinist ran out a game winner of the mile three-year-old maiden. The challengers were queuing up behind the two furlong marker, but the son of New Approach saw them all off to record a half-length victory over the outsider Silver Lightening.
Described by Bolger as a ‘hardy’ horse that will improve once he gets decent underfoot conditions, Alpinist will be aimed at one of the Derby trials after which he will be further assessed.
Aidan O’Brien got on the scoresheet when Francis Of Assisi comfortably beat Bolger runner Einsteins Folly in the Gabriel Curran Memorial Madrid handicap over seven furlongs.
Rider Joseph O’Brien kicked the son of Danehill Dancer clear after the two furlong marker, drawing steadily away to win by three and three-quarter lengths. Conditions were of no trouble to the winner, who could be asked to step up to Stakes level.
Srucahan from the Pat Deegan yard picked up where he left off last term when winning the six furlong 75-94 handicap in the hands of Chris Hayes. Given time to find his feet, the four-year-old moved sweetly into contention heading to the last furlong before running out a clear length and a half winner at the expense of Joe Eile.
Although on the small size Srucahan handled the prevailing conditions well. He could reappear at Cork this weekend in a Listed race, but will be given a break when we get Summer ground.
Duck to water
Former top national hunt rider and trainer Tommy Carmody, who has taken to training flat horses like a duck to water, was on hand to greet Sweet Lightening when he added the Irish Lincolnshire handicap to the English equivalent with a commanding performance under Johnny Murtagh.
Coming with a wet sail up the inside in the final couple of furlongs Sweet Lightening was soon in the clear. Running on strongly, he hit the wire three and three-quarter lengths to the good from the rank outsider Cheval Rose.
The unlucky horse in the race was undoubtedly the Tommy Stack runner Croi An Oir which was only cantering behind a wall of horses a quarter of a mile out but had no place to go, forcing jockey Wayne Lordan to sit and suffer in the closing stages. A three-time winner last year, Croi An Oir is a son of Windsor Knot which is commanding plenty of attention at John McEnery’s Rossenarra Stud near Kells.