Jim Bolger knows a thing or two about producing a horse to win the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas and on Saturday the trainer triumphed in Britain’s first Classic of the season as Poetic Flare battled to victory at Newmarket.
It was a success that saw Poetic Flare emulate his sire Dawn Approach, whom Bolger bred and trained to win the 2,000 Guineas in 2013. On both occasions Kevin Manning was in the saddle.
Still lightly raced having only had three runs as a two-year-old, Poetic Flare showed he had taken a step forward towards the end of 2020 when he won the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes after disappointing in the Dewhurst Stakes behind St Mark’s Basilica.
That improvement continued into the first start of his three-year-old campaign at Leopardstown last month where he beat Ace Aussie by one and a half lengths in the Listed 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes.
Much of the focus ahead of Saturday’s contest had been on Aidan O’Brien’s trio of Wembley, Van Gogh and Battleground, with the last-named backed into favouritism while Poetic Flare was sent off at 16-1.
Having broken cleanly from the stalls, Manning had to restrain Poetic Flare as he raced keenly behind the leaders Naval Crown and Devilwala. Towards the middle part of the race, Manning could be seen giving his mount a tap on the shoulder just before the race heated up.
Craven Stakes winner Master Of The Seas was switched out by jockey William Buick to run clear on the far-side rail but at the same time, Poetic Flare had moved out into clear space and was eyeballing Godolphin’s hope as they exited the dip.
Finding plenty under the urgings of Manning, Poetic Flare wore down Master Of The Seas and claimed victory by a short-head, with a neck back to the Jessica Harrington-trained Lucky Vega in third.
Manning, speaking to Racing TV, said: “He’s usually a very switched off horse who takes everything in his stride, but he left the gates very quick and on the wrong note and it just took a furlong and a half or two furlongs to reorganise and get into the rhythm.
“He’s very smart and has done it very well. He travelled well and picked up well. He just caught me off guard coming out of the gates and I had to sit and suffer, but I didn’t feel he was taking as much out of himself as it might have looked.
“Going down into the dip, when he quickened up, I thought he’d put it to bed. In the last five or six strides he was just idling a little bit and coming back underneath me. It’s great to get to the other side of it [in front at the line].
“I made no secret what I felt of this horse, it was no surprise to me. I thought the extra furlong would suit him and I felt he’d improve for Leopardstown.
“I’ve always felt he was a mile horse. He’d probably get a mile and a quarter, but I don’t see any reason why you’d have to go beyond a mile.
“These are the races everyone wants to win; they are so hard won. To win it a second time is fantastic and makes the long days seem a little easier.”
A Bolger homebred, Poetic Flare is out of the Rock Of Gibraltar mare Maria Lee and is a three-parts brother to the Listed-winning Glamorous Approach.
It was back-to-back successes as damsire for Rock Of Gibraltar following Kameko’s victory in the 2020 edition, run a month later than its traditional slot at the start of May due to the suspension of racing because of coronavirus.
Creative Force and Lazuli win for Godolphin
While Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby and William Buick suffered defeat with Master Of The Seas, they secured a double on Saturday as Creative Force and Lazuli both triumphed.
Creative Force took the spoils in the six-furlong handicap while Lazuli, conceding 3lb to his rivals, held off the late charge of Came From The Dark to claim the Group 3 Palace House Stakes by a neck.
Appleby said: “He ran a good race in Dubai to finish third behind Equilateral and he was going to run on Super Saturday, but I had to scratch him on the morning of the race because of a bruised foot.
“We maintained the training in Dubai after that little setback and he came off the plane fit and well. We toyed with this race, but with the penalty we weren’t completely sold on the idea and thought about going to Haydock.
“Once we made the entry or this, I was half confident to take them on as he loves this ground. He’s a real professional little sprinter.”
Also at Newmarket on Saturday, Mark Johnston looks spoilt for choice with staying horses this season as Sir Ron Priestley led from pillar to post to claim the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes having missed the entirety of 2020.
Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer, told Racing TV: “He had a suspensory ligament issue in the spring of last year and we were trying to get him back for the Long Distance Cup at Ascot at the backend.
“Then he fractured his pelvis around September time. They were two unrelated injuries, but combined, it kept him off the track for over 18 months.
“The next 24 hours are always nerve-racking with a horse with a history like that, so fingers crossed.
“Given what he did as a three-year-old, and because of who his brother [Subjectivist] is, we spent most of the winter thinking he was going to be a Cup horse this year.
“The Further Flight was a stepping-stone to the Yorkshire Cup and the Gold Cup – that is certainly the plan we had in our heads going to Nottingham.
“The way he travelled and picked up at Nottingham made us think a little bit and off the back of that we made the entry here and in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot.
“Today was a great opportunity to find out what we should be aiming for the rest of the year.”
Meanwhile, the Listed Newmarket Stakes went the way of the William Haggas-trained Mohaafeth by a margin of five lengths.