First Irish 2000 Guineas win for jockey Rory Cleary and trainer Jim Bolger

May 24, 2021

A Jim Bolger exacta in the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas

Veteran Irish handler Jim Bolger won the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh for the first time with Mac Swiney. For good measure, however, the County Wexford-born trainer also achieved the exacta with Poetic Flare.

Mac Swiney, winner of the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy in England on his final start last October, finished a disappointing fourth to Bolshoi Ballet on his seasonal reappearance in the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown on 9 May. 

On Saturday, Mac Swiney, by New Approach out of a Telfilo mare, Halla Na Saoire, all bred by Bolger, finally gave the Coolcullen conditioner a victory in the colts’ Classic, having previously trained the runner-up on four occasions.

With the stable’s top jockey Kevin Manning – Bolger’s son in law – aboard the perceived barn’s first string, Rory Cleary took the ride on Mac Swiney.

Though Cleary and the eventual winner were prominent throughout the one-mile Classic, Manning and Poetic Verse ranged up on their outside inside the final furlong. When Manning asked his mount for maximum effort, the colt by Dawn Approach went off a straight line, a move which proved crucial as he was beaten by his stable companion by just a short-head at the finishing line. 

The son of American Pharoah, Van Gogh, trained by Aidan O’Brien for the Coolmore partners was a further three and a quarter lengths back in third place. 

Rory Cleary, winning his first Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas, said of his landmark Classic success on the chestnut: 

“It’s hard to describe. Unbelievable really. He’s such a special horse and it’s such a special race to ride in. He jumped and travelled so easy. I wish all my rides were as easy to ride in as he was.”

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I can’t believe it,” Cleary told the Racing Post. “Jim (Bolger) is unbelievable. 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.”

Bolger’s assistant trainer and daughter, Úna, represented her father at The Curragh and explained that there had been a good reason for Mac Swiney’s poor performance in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial: 

“He had a bit of mucus at Leopardstown and didn’t give a true account of himself. It was Jim’s plan to run him here and have him ready for the Derby. He needed a run, so why not run him in the Irish Guineas? Traditionally it’s been a very good trial for the Derby.”

The runner-up Poetic Flare, winner of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, England, at the beginning of this month, had also run in the French equivalent at Longchamp only six days ago. 

In later giving his reaction to the success, seventy-nine year-old Jim Bolger said to the Racing Post:

“It was worth waiting for. Someone said to me that ideally it would be good if there was another week to play with, but I said, ‘No, bring it on’. I was very happy with them and I’m delighted for Rory – nobody works harder than he does.”

Discussing his two top-class colts, Bolger said:

“Mac Swiney loves that sort of ground (soft) but Poetic Flare needs a sounder surface.”

Post-race, the winning rider Rory Cleary was given a six-day ban for exceeding the eight-strike whip limit by one.

Mac Swiney will now likely participate in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom, England, next month, while Poetic Flare may be considered for Royal Ascot in late June. 

Photo: The Curragh Racecourse Twitter account: @curraghrace

Contributing Authors

Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Breandán Ó hUallacháin writes about Irish, British, French and Australian horseracing, both National Hunt and Flat. He has an interest in the history of racing...

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