Poetic Flare edged out Master Of The Seas in a pulsating QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.
A frenetic renewal, run at a fast pace on quick ground, built to a fabulous finish nip-and-tuck finish with 16-1 chance Poetic Flare, trained by Jim Bolger and ridden by Kevin Manning, having his head down just at the right moment to land the first Classic of the season by a short head.
Bolger, 79, was winning the Guineas for a second time, having landed the 2013 renewal with Dawn Approach, the sire of Poetic Flare. The veteran trainer’s son-in-law, Manning, 54, had also been on board that day eight years ago.
Those drawn low dominated with Naval Crown, who eventually finished fourth, setting the early gallop. It was the first two home who finished with real purpose, though, as they raced neck and neck inside the final furlong.
Charlie Appleby, the trainer of Master of the Seas, must have thought he was on the cusp of winning the race for a first time as his colt nosed ahead yards from the finish under William Buick but Poetic Flare poked his head in front of the Craven winner on the line, with Lucky Vega running on well for third.
Battleground, trained by Aidan O’Brien, bidding for an eleventh win in the race, was all the rage in the late betting exchanges but the 9-2 favourite was beaten a long way out and beat only one home – the 11-2 second favourite Thunder Moon, who won the National Stakes last year.
Wembley and Mutasaabeq, who had been supplemented, were other leading contenders who never got into contention.
Speaking from his County Carlow base, Bolger said: “I thought he was beaten! It’s a big day for us, right up there with the best we’ve had.
“I’m not too concerned about him getting further in time. Kevin did say in the interview on TV that he thought he’d stay 10 furlongs, but at the moment I’m not thinking about going anywhere except the mile.
“He has buckets of speed and I even entered him in the Commonwealth Cup in the unlikely event that he didn’t stay, as he’s that quick and you always have some doubts about whether the very quick ones will stay or not. The St James’s Palace would definitely be on the cards.”
Manning revealed on Racing TV that his most anxious moments had been in the early stages.
“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 a rhythm,” he told Rishi Persad Racing TV.
“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 (line, in front).”
There have been fewer older jockeys than manning to have landed the Guineas, the most recent being Lester Piggott, who was 56 when winning on Rodrigo De Triano in 1992.
“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,” Manning said.
“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.”
Appleby said of runner-up Master Of The Seas: “We’re delighted with that run. He’s won everywhere bar the line. He’s backed up that performance there in the Craven and at least we know that we’ve got a proper horse on our hands for the rest of the season. We’ll regroup and think about where to head next now.”
On sixth-placed One Ruler, he added: “James (Doyle, jockey) was happy enough, he just said that when they were quickening he was just going through the gears at a slower pace than the others. The group was slightly on the quicker side for him and we’ll step him up in trip.”
Trainer Jessica Harrington said of third home Lucky Vega: “I’m absolutely thrilled with him. He was beaten less than half a length. He stays which everyone said no. I thought he would get it as he is such a relaxed horse. He ran a little bit fresh but he was very good.
“Shane (Foley, jockey) said he didn’t come down the hill very well and he didn’t come down the hill well in the Middle Park last year when we thought it was just the soft ground.
“He stayed on and he was coming back every stride up the hill. He is in the Irish 2000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace so they would be the next couple to look at. Getting them ready for the first time out of the year you never know how much you have done but the people at home have done a great job.
“Today we were slightly nervous as it looked an open race and it probably was in the end. Maybe a few horses didn’t quite fire and it has been a cold spring.”
The winning most trainer in the 2000 Guineas is O’Brien, with 10 victories. He was out of luck this year with Van Gogh (8th), Wembley and Battleground.
O’Brien said: “Some of them didn’t give their running. Frankie (Dettori, jockey) just said Battleground hit a ridge and that he lost his balance after that. Ryan (Moore) said his horse (Wembley) ran a grand race and that a mile was as far as you would probably ever want to go and he wouldn’t mind coming back in trip.
“Seamus (Heffernan) said his horse (Van Gogh) ran a good race. He said he was going to be fifth but he just got ran out of it, but it was a good run.”
1 Poetic Flare (K J Manning) 16-1 2 Master Of The Seas (W Buick) 6-1 3 Lucky Vega (S Foley) 12-1 14 ran Also: 9-2 Fav Battleground, 50-1 Naval Crown 4th Non Runner: 1 CSF: £103.14 Tricast: £827.17 No 1 Albadri (250-1) was withdrawn not under orders. Rule 4 does not apply.