Poetic Flare sets Royal Ascot alight for Jim Bolger

Palace Pier justifies the hype again in opener to leave a mouth-watering clash on the cards

Kevin Manning and Poetic Flare (L) en-route to victory at Royal Ascot. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

Kevin Manning and Poetic Flare (L) en-route to victory at Royal Ascot. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

 

Having put the cat among the pigeons with his comments on doping in Irish racing, Jim Bolger was entitled to look like the cat that got the cream after Poetic Flare’s superb St James’s Palace Stakes victory on Day One of Royal Ascot.

Eight years after his sire Dawn Approach got the better of an epic duel with Toronado in the same race, Poetic Flare made light of his fourth Group 1 race in 45 days to come home on his own at the front of an Irish cleansweep.

The colt that narrowly won the English Guineas, floundered in the ground in the French version, and beat all bar his stable companion Mac Swiney in another mudfest at the Curragh, defied the busy schedule to record his most impressive performance yet.

There was over four lengths back to the runner up Lucky Vega, with Battleground in third, and the display teed up some ‘Duel on the Downs’ hype over the chances of a Sussex Stakes clash with the older star, Palace Pier, who less than two hours earlier had won the Queen Anne.

“I was expecting him to go and do that,” Bolger reported from his Co Carlow base.

Over 45 years of winners, and in the process establishing a singular operation capable of competing at elite level with horses both owned and bred as well as trained by himself, provides ample evidence of Bolger’s ability to meet his own expectations.

If his claims that a level playing field doesn’t exist in Ireland due to drugs, repeated at the weekend, and with a comparison to the infamous Lance Armstrong to boot, have provoked resentment among some of his peers then Bolger’s status makes them impossible to ignore.

There is also plenty evidence from decades past of the 79-year-old trainer’s readiness to ignore popularity in favour of ploughing his own furrow, again an element in Poetic Flare’s ultra-busy campaign which the colt appears to be thriving in.

Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori took the opener at Royal Ascot. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA
Palace Pier and Frankie Dettori took the opener at Royal Ascot. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA

“We always knew he was hardy from the word go, even when he was being broken in you couldn’t keep him quiet,” Bolger recalled. “This horse is so hardy, he’s unbelievable. You have to give it to him to keep his back down.”

Even though the Irish star was visually much more impressive, bookmakers went odds-on about Palace Pier in any potential match at Goodwood next month.

Both however have the option of Deauville’ ‘Marois’ in August and Poetic Flare looked significantly more at home on Tuesday’s fast ground conditions than his older rival.

“I think ground is a big key to him. This good, quick ground is really where he shows his best,” said his rider, Kevin Manning.

Palace Pier justified long odds-on to give his trainer John Gosden a first Queen Anne success. It was a seventh for Dettori, 31 years after gaining his first Group 1 in the same race on Markofdistinction.

“It was his first time on real good to firm ground so he wasn’t so sure on it but he still proved again he’s the best miler around,” the Italian said, a sentiment one Irish trainer in particular might debate with him.

Lope Y Fernandez finished runner up to Palace Pier as other Irish hopes on Day One got close but failed to collect.

The Willie Mullins trained M C Muldoon failed by a short head to overhaul the 66-1 outsider Reshoun in the marathon Ascot Stakes. Rachael Blackmore’s mount Cape Gentleman started a 5-2 favourite but could never land a blow.

In contrast Joseph O’Brien’s Patrick Sarsfield couldn’t repel Juan Elcano’s late thrust in the Wolferton.

The big Mullins hope of the day Saldier was a well backed 15-8 favourite for the concluding Copper Horse Stakes but was at his limits before the straight and ultimately faded out of the places behind the 33-1 outsider Amtiyaz.

Hollie Doyle’s mount completed a double for the Gosden team.

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