Jim Bolger hasn’t half stood the test of time

Watching Jim Bolger’s Smash Williams streaking away with a Group 3 at the Curragh last Sunday, it struck me that here is a man who hasn’t half stood the test of time.

Jim Bolger hasn’t half stood the test of time

He is someone who seems to have supped from the font of eternal youth and it is virtually impossible to believe was born in 1941.

I suppose we should have suspected he was destined for greatness, considering J S Bolger entered this world on December 25.

What it means is that, despite being in his 74th year, he is at the peak of his powers as a trainer and there is absolutely no reason to think he will consider quitting any time soon.

Bolger has achieved so much in a lengthy career and the fact is such a prolific breeder, owner and master trainer is quite extraordinary.

He is not everyone’s cup of tea, hardly unique there, and no one will be more aware of it than him. But, to balance that, there are plenty of us who have always liked him. We know what he has done throughout an astonishing forty years or so, but there are a number of things he hasn’t done.

He has never drank (alcohol) or smoked for instance, doesn’t suffer fools gladly and being politically correct appears to hold no great attraction for him either.

Bolger has basically been training top class horses for as long as one can remember, although I suppose what could be best described as his first superstar was probably St Jovite.

That horse was beaten two lengths into second by Dr Devious in the Epsom Derby of 1992, but then destroyed Dr Devious in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh to the tune of 12 lengths.

He ran in eleven races in total and was partnered on ten occasions by the then stable jockey Christy Roche.

But Roche, if memory serves me correctly, was suspended for the King George at Ascot in high summer and so Bolger needed a replacement.

I think it is fair to say we all expected a high-profile rider, with an international reputation, to be booked and waited to see in what direction Bolger would nod.

But he was having none of it and instead handed the ride to Stephen Craine. Now Craine was a highly competent home based pilot, but it was still a major surprise. St Jovite, of course, made all-of-the-running and won by six lengths.

Successful and all as Bolger has been for so long, I think it is no exaggeration to say that the 2000’s has been his best period.

Teofilo came along in 2006 and was unbeaten in five races as a juvenile. He then suffered a career ending injury, which meant he never ran as a three-year-old, but is now a top stallion.

Then the following year, New Approach arrived and was also unbeaten as a two-year-old. He progressed to make up for St Jovite and win the Epsom Derby and is also very much making his mark as a stallion.

Then it was Dawn Approach in 2013, who won the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James’ Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

And there is the relatively recent association with Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, which has been hugely beneficial to both parties.

Indeed such wasn’t lost on Godolphin representative, John Ferguson, after Pleascach had won the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks for the organisation at York last month.

Pleascash had lost her way a little in her previous two races, but the Bolger magic ensured she came right back to her best at York.

In a subsequent television interview Ferguson said: “Godolphin owe an awful lot to Jim’’, or words to that effect.

Already this season, Bolger has produced some very promising two-year-olds in the likes of Herald The Dawn, Smash Williams and Sanus Per Aquam.

As you get older you are supposed to get slower. But, typical of Bolger, he continues to turn that particular theory on its head. Seventy plus, yes, but I think he’s getting quicker!


Hurricane Fly was awarded an honourable retirement this week and heads off to the sunset with the best wishes of everyone.

My most endearing memory of him was his success in the 2013 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, when he was given the responsibility of landing a decent wager, at least by my standards.

He hit a dreadful flat spot over on the far side of the track, however, and, for a couple of hundred yards, all seemed lost.

But he rallied back, as only he could, and was actually a comfortable winner at the line.

Heading down to the winner’s enclosure that afternoon my over-riding emotion was one of relief, but couldn’t shake off the notion that it might be best to swerve him in the future.

He went on to win another seven races.


The Ballydoyle story is moving along at a fast pace, so here are two predictions.

Firstly, Aidan O’Brien will be at Ballydoyle next season and probably for a long time to come. Secondly, expect his son, Joseph, assuming Ryan Moore is fit to resume next season, to be unveiled as a new trainer out of Piltown, sooner rather than later.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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