Mac Swiney digs in to give Jim Bolger 2,000 Guineas glory

8-1 winner edges out stablemate Poetic Flare as Rory Cleary claims a famous victory

Mac Swiney ridden by Rory Cleary (L) took the 2,000 Guineas for Jim Bolger. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Mac Swiney ridden by Rory Cleary (L) took the 2,000 Guineas for Jim Bolger. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

Journeyman jockey Rory Cleary secured the classic spotlight in style at the Curragh on Saturday as Mac Swiney edged out his stable companion Poetic Flare for a Jim Bolger one-two in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas.

A classic run in a murk, reflective of the morning inspection the track had to pass, wound up fizzing with emotion as 34-year-old Cleary enjoyed the finest moment of his career.

With Bolger’s No 1 jockey Kevin Manning opting to stick with the English Guineas hero Poetic Flare, the stable No 2 came in for the ride on Mac Swiney and Cleary grabbed his opportunity with aplomb.

Last year’s Futurity winner - named after the former Lord Mayor of Cork Terence Mac Swiney - quickly took up the running and repelled all challengers under Cleary’s urging.

The 8-1 winner’s biggest challenge came from Poetic Flare who made light of a six-day turnaround from running in the previous weekend’s French Guineas.

Despite a slight jink under pressure Poetic Flare pressed his stable companion all the way to line but ultimately failed to overhaul Mac Swiney by a short head.

Van Gogh was over three lengths behind the Bolger pair in third while the 7-2 favourite Lucky Vega was fourth.

It was a first Irish 2,000 Guineas for Bolger who had come up short in the past, including through New Approach, runner up in 2008, and also 30 years ago when Star Of Gdansk was second to the US runner Fourstars Allstar.

That gap in the CV of one of Irish racing’s most notable figures was put right with a vengeance by two colts both bred and trained by Bolger, and racing in the colours of his wife, Jackie.

Such top-flight success has been a regular occurrence for the 79-year-old trainer over decades that have seen him resolutely support his own riders on the biggest stages.

Cleary admitted afterwards he never dreamed of riding a fancied classic contender but Mac Swiney advertised his Derby credentials and is a 7-1 shot for Epsom in a fortnight.

Manning will be on board then but the significance of Saturday’s outcome was lost on no one at the Curragh as Cleary’s weighing room colleagues applauded him back to the winner’s enclosure.

It is almost 18 years since the jockey’s older brother Sean was fatally injured in a fall at Galway.

The 22-year-old, who spent three years at Bolger’s famed jockey academy as an apprentice, rode 14 winners before sustaining severe head injuries in an accident at Galway in 2003.

Such a devastating blow for the Cleary family was keenly felt throughout racing and Saturday’s hero of the hour said he felt there was somebody looking down on him.

Rory Cleary celebrates on top of Mac Swiney after winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Brian Lawless/PA
Rory Cleary celebrates on top of Mac Swiney after winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Brian Lawless/PA

“I still can’t believe it. I was quietly nervous about having to ride him. I’ve never ridden a fancied horse in it - in a big race - never mind a Classic.

“He’s such a special horse to get a ride on. The boss this morning just told me to jump out good and smart and ride a race on him and see how it unfolds.

“The further we went, the better he was going under me, and he stayed at it so well. I think the ground, with it being a bit on the wet side, his stamina really came into play.

“He’s so honest - I just can’t believe I’m after winning the Guineas,” Cleary said.

“Kevin came to me and we quickened away together again. I think they’re two very smart horses.

“My lad really just stuck his head out for me. I think somebody was looking down on me because they made it easy for me,” he added.

Mac Swiney had disappointed in the Derrinstown Trial behind the Derby favourite Bolshoi Ballet earlier in the month but was found to be off-colour afterwards.

Such a resounding bounce back to form puts him firmly in the Epsom picture.

Bolger, who won the Derby with New Approach, wasn’t at the Curragh on Saturday but his second Guineas winner of this season is set to try and emulate the 2008 winner.

The trainer’s daughter, Una, married to Kevin Manning said afterwards: “He’s not afraid to take on a challenge. He was talking about running the two horses and I said ‘wouldn’t it be great if Poetic Flare won and Mac Swiney was second and then went to Epsom and did a New Approach’.

“It ended up the other way around. I myself am a little disappointed for Kevin that he wasn’t on the winner, but on the other hand Rory has been such a loyal second jockey in the yard for so many years that he very much deserves this win.

“I think Kevin was happy enough to ride Poetic Flare. He said to me last week, after Longchamp, maybe we should just run the two of them in the Guineas and it would leave Mac Swiney right for Epsom.

“We’ve always had faith in Mac Swiney. He wasn’t quite himself at Leopardstown, but that does happen with horses and nowadays we all know about the mucus because we can scope them, so it’s different to years ago when you wouldn’t know.”

Manning caught the mood when describing it as “Rory’s day” but the winning jockey was keen to pay tribute to Bolger for giving him the ride on Mac Swiney.

“Jim is unbelievable. His loyalty is second to none. He’s such a special man to leave me in charge of riding a horse like that. He’s a true legend and a gentleman,” he said.

Earlier Gustaus Weston sprang a 14-1 surprise in the Group 2 Weatherbys Greenlands Stakes for in-form trainer Joe Murphy.

Gary Carroll’s mount was three quarters of a length too good for Make A Challenge.

“That was his Derby. He won here before and we always thought he liked the Curragh,” said Murphy. “We thought he needed the race last week and that put him dead on for this one.”

Epona Plays landed the other Group 2, the Lanwades Stud Stakes, by four lengths under Billy Lee while the testing ground conditions proved no trouble to the impressive Marble Hill winner Castle Star.

With up to 10mms of rain forecast, a 7.30am inspection will be held at the Curragh on Sunday morning ahead of the 1,000 Guineas programme.

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