15 October 2006
After stablemates Teofilo and Finsceal Bio had established themselves as the top colt and filly of this two- year-old generation, their trainer, Jim Bolger, was asked about the pressure he must cope with through the winter with the Classics up ahead. “I don’t do pressure,” said Bolger with characteristic directness. “Pressure is for tyres and footballs.”
Bolger has been a top trainer for so long that he has become almost more famous for the people rather than the horses he trained – both Tony McCoy and Aidan O’Brien being graduates of the Coolcullen academy. Yesterday’s double triumph in Teofilo’s Dewhurst Stakes and Finsceal Bio’s Rockfel put him back at the head of the horsey tree.
Teofilo is a magnificent great brute of a two-year-old – 510 kilos of hard bay muscle bringing a four-race unbeaten record into the Dewhurst. Up against him was Holy Roman Emperor, the Ballydoyle No 1 whom he had beaten at The Curragh but who had himself won most impressively in Paris last time. As they dueled for the line, at stake was nothing less than top ranking in the two-year-old division.
Teofilo went to the front a furlong and a half out after being close up throughout. Holy Roman Emperor weaved his way through from the back of the field, and as he launched his late challenge he looked sure to run past his massive rival. Coming past us with just 50 metres left to run, the Ballydoyle hope thrust ahead, but Teofilo rallied with all the strength of his famous Cuban boxing namesake and clinched the title by a head.
Thirty-five minutes later Bolger and his son-in-law jockey, Kevin Manning, were back in the winner’s enclosure after the filly, Finsceal Bio, had followed up a five-length victory in France’s Prix Marcel Boussac by treating a 13-strong Rockfel field with equal disdain. The assembled media closed round the trainer to ask about the worries of the winter for the two horses, who are both intended to return to Newmarket for the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas next May. “Pressure?” Bolger repeated with scorn. “I am not worried about pressure I am just thrilled to have horses who can compete at the highest level. And isn’t this sort of competitiveness what racing is all about?”
Finsceal Bio means ‘living legend’ in Gaelic and Teofilo looks set to assure that status for his and the filly’s trainer. For the colt is also bred by Bolger and owned by his wife, Jackie, and Jim is adamant that Teofilo will not just thrive next year but will be even better over a mile and a quarter and the Derby trip of a mile and a half.
“He eats, sleeps and does what he is asked to do,” Bolger said. “He majors in temperament – no scene phases him and he doesn’t worry which is a huge thing for a horse of his class. There would not appear to be many downsides. He certainly ticks all the boxes.”
Bolger is also adamant that he will not succumb to the lure of the limitless Dubai chequebook which has spirited so many top two-year-olds off to the blue Godolphin banner. “He is not leaving Coolcullen except to go to the races,” Bolger added. “He’s 100-1 on to be carrying Jackie’s colours next year.”
Race days with heavy billing need to deliver what they say on the tin. Newmarket proudly call this Champions’ Day and for once that was exactly what we got. Right down to a Champion Stakes won by a six-year-old mare called Pride running the best race of her life at the end of her fifth racing season. The Triumph Hurdle winner, Detroit City, took the Cesarewitch, so making jockey Jamie Spencer the first rider to land the ‘Autumn Double’ in 120 years.
Millions of pounds have been wasted in trying to market this game but nothing so promotes it than the spectacle of top-class horses coming back for more. Pride was a slightly unlucky second in last year’s Champion Stakes, posted a clear-cut victory over Hurricane Run in midsummer and was a fast-closing second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last time out. To win yesterday’s Champion, Sven Hanson’s home-bred mare would need to beat Hurricane Run again and to cope with the challenge of the returning Derby winner Sir Percy. She did it with ease.
Admittedly Sir Percy faded disappointingly to run the first bad race of his career, but Hurricane Run stuck on well after making the running. However, neither he nor any of the others could counter the speed with which Pride sliced through the field down the hill.
In a week when another £4.5 million was spent on the yearling sales and when Jalil, last year’s $9.7 million record breaker made a desperately ordinary racecourse debut, she is proof that the best things can still come from home.