Veteran trainer Bolger grabs headlines at Ascot on and off the track

·3-min read

Veteran trainer Jim Bolger's bombshell claims over doping in Irish racing captured the headlines ahead of Royal Ascot, but on Tuesday he stole the spotlight on the racecourse as Poetic Flare won the St James' Palace Stakes.

The 79-year-old Irishman told the Irish Independent there would be "a Lance Armstrong" in Irish racing, in a reference to the disgraced cyclist, and added that he knew who the drug cheats were,

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board replied, saying it had a "zero-tolerance" approach to doping in the sport.

Bolger's comments provided a backdrop to the first day's racing at the sun-baked course west of London, hosting 12,000 spectators as a government coronavirus test event.

Poetic Flare coasted to victory in the feature race, watched by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.

There was no royal procession and racing fan Queen Elizabeth II watched from Windsor Castle, although she may attend later in the week, with several of her horses due to run.

Bolger also stayed away, but his family were present and his daughter, Una, greeted Poetic Flare and his jockey, her 54-year-old husband Kevin Manning, in the winner's enclosure.

"Dad always had faith in him (Poetic Flare)," Una told ITV. "I rang him after the race and said 'well done' and he replied 'that was exactly what I was expecting'."

Manning described Poetic Flare as "an iron horse" in what was his fifth race since April, including the English, Irish and French and 2000 Guineas events. He won the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Frankie Dettori opened the meeting by landing the Group One Queen Anne Stakes on hot favourite Palace Pier.

It was the 74th Royal Ascot winner for the 50-year-old Italian superstar, whose first winner at the meeting was Markofdistinction in the same race in 1990.

Dettori said he had missed the crowd in 2020 as the event was held behind closed doors due to Covid-19 rules but this year the Italian showman had his audience.

"I probably needed valium this morning, I was so excited," said Dettori, who blew kisses to the crowd, held his hands to his ears to soak up the applause and performed his traditional flying dismount.

"Ascot has been a huge part of my life. It is where it all started here 31 years ago. Seeing all that colour in the stands (well-dressed fans) I thought it was a mirage."

- 'Cheap bottle of champagne' -

For John Gosden and his son Thady it was a landmark win as it was their first Royal Ascot winner since they became joint trainers this season.

"I've been second in this race three times -- it took Thady to get me over the line," said 70-year-old Gosden, who also tasted success with Amtiyaz in the Copper Horse Stakes.

Another son of a racing legend experienced his first Royal Ascot winner.

Cieren Fallon -- son of retired former champion jockey Kieren -- gave trainer Roger Teal his first-ever Royal Ascot winner as Oxted landed the Group One King's Stand Stakes.

"Crossing the line, I never thought I would experience a feeling like it and I embraced it," said Fallon, whose father never won the race during his stellar career.

"I was on the phone to him before racing as he was on the golf course and he gave me good advice."

There was another first-ever winner in the shape of owner Paul Spickett as Berkshire Shadow, under champion jockey Oisin Murphy, won the Coventry Stakes.

"This is amazing. From when I was 12-years-old I wanted to own horses," said Spickett. "This is a massive day. I bought him for my wife as she loves greys.

"We started backing it at 22/1 (he won at 11/1) and we will buy a cheap bottle of champagne later today."


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