Horse Racing: O’Brien and Bolger in flying form
The Longines Champions weekend, the biggest and most valuable flat fixture of the year, was staged at Leopardstown on Saturday and The Curragh on Sunday, and Aidan O'Brien took the final classic of the season, the St. Leger, with a rampant Order of St. George.
He had a very respectable five winners over the two days, and Jim Bolger made it a magnificent seven for Wexford with a double on Sunday.
Despite his success, some of O'Brien's Ballydoyle big guns were turned over and Ryan Moore had a bit of a nightmare on the opening day and he certainly will not have happy memories of Leopardstown on Saturday when he had four plum rides and ended up with no winner.
He tasted defeat on Winter (1/1), beaten a head by Wayne Lordan on 20/1 stablemate, Hydrangea, in the €350,000 Group 1 Coolmore Matron Stakes; on Churchill (8/11) who ended up boxed in up the home straight behind shock 25/1 English raider, Decorated Knight, in the €1.25million Qipco Irish Champion Stakes.
He was third on Delano Roosevelt (11/10) in the €100,000 Group 3 Juvenile Stakes, behind two stable mates, Nelson (11/2) under Donnacha O'Brien, and Kew Gardens (10/1), ridden by Seamie Heffernan, while Bye Bye Baby (5/1) was well beaten by Colin Keane on the Ger Lyons trained Lightening Quick (6/1).
Things looked up for Moore on Sunday when Carravaggio (9/10f) returned to his best to take the €300,000 Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, asserting in the final fifty yards to beat stable mate and massive outsider, Alphabet (50/1), under Seamie Heffernan.
He had an armchair ride on Order of St. George (2/5f) in the €500,000 Comer Group St. Leger, asserting early in the straight and romping in by nine lengths from Jessica Harrington's Torcedor (14/1) under Colm O'Donoghue - surely Jessica's first Group 1 win on the flat cannot be far away.
O'Brien completed his treble on Sunday when Happily (13/2), under son, Donnacha, managed to pip Moore on Magical (9/4) by a short head in a dramatic finish, with the stable's September (4/1) third under Seamie Heffernan to make it a Ballydoyle clean sweep.
Jim Bolger scored a very impressive Group 1 success in the €200,000 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes on Sunday with Verbal Dexterity (5/2) under Kevin Manning, cozily beating the favourite, Gordon Elliott's Beckford (6/4) under Pat Smullen.
A delighted Bolger said 'he's a very good horse … he has everything, the complete package … I can see him champion European two year old!'
Bolger completed a great double in the finale at The Curragh in the €150,000 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Northfields Handicap with Panstarr (8/1) under Rory Cleary, beating the Ger Lyons trained favourite, Mawaany (7/2) by a neck.
Earlier in the week, Bolger took the featured flat race at wet and muddy Roscommon on Monday evening with Stenographer (4/1) under Kevin Manning, while Jamie Codd was second in the bumper on Pat Flynn's Some Day Soon (2/1) behind Noel Meade's Kirwan's Lane (6/5f).
At Gowran on Wednesday night, O'Brien got the better of Bolger in the most valuable race on the card, €16,500 maiden, his Family Tree (5/1) under Seamie Heffernan beating Meagher's Flag (6/4) under Kevin Manning.
There was little else to report during the week from the beach at Laytown, the flat at Down Royal and over the jumps at Clonmel, Camolin jockey, James O'Sullivan, did best in the final meeting of the season at Kilbeggan on Friday night when second on Kevin Thornton's Sierra Law in the handicap hurdle.
Sean Flanagan got the week-long Listowel Harvest Festival off to a winning start on Sunday when steering Champoleon (11/4) to success for Noel Meade in the €15,000 three-mile maiden hurdle.
He had to accept third on Colin Bowe's busy Sharlanda (3/1) in the novice chase - this one is in foal and is soon due to be rested after a consistent season that included three wins and three placings from six runs since mid-June.
Listowel continues until Saturday next, the last of the big Summer festivals. Gowran Park on Saturday and Galway on Mon and Tues 18 and 19 are the only other fixtures in the next week.