Jane Mangan: Brilliant colt Mac Swiney targets British racing's top prize

'Trainer Jim Bolger identified a colt worthy of such a name in the spring of 2020 — the year that would mark 100 years since the Cork patriot died during a hunger strike'
Jane Mangan: Brilliant colt Mac Swiney targets British racing's top prize

Mac Swiney and Rory Cleary with grooms John Hayes and Ger Flynn after their win for trainer Jim Bolger. Picture: Healy Racing.

“IT is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most will conquer...”

The words of former Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney will forever remain relevant, but to a new generation, the name MacSwiney has been given a new lease of life courtesy of Jim Bolger’s latest equine star.

Intent on paying tribute to the legendary political icon, Jim Bolger identified a colt worthy of such a name in the spring of 2020 — the year that would mark 100 years since Terence MacSwiney died during a hunger strike.

Bolger’s vision, combined with impeccable timing and fortuitous circumstance, has resulted in a lovely tribute of remembrance to one of Cork’s most respected figures. A Group 1 winning juvenile turned classic winner at the Curragh; wouldn’t it be immensely satisfying were Mac Swiney to conquer the biggest race run on British soil?

The Epsom Derby is just eight days away and the prospect of an Irish-trained horse winning a sixth classic this season is very high. So far this season, there have been six European classics run — Ballydoyle have won three and Jim Bolger has brought two home to Coolcullen.

The Epsom Derby is the biggest and most illustrious of all the classic races and its heritage and tradition go back centuries. Tales of Emily Davidson jumping in front of the King’s horse during the suffragette movement in the early 1900s or that David versus Goliath moment when Secreto nabbed El Gran Senor on the line, the Epsom Derby world-renowned as the ultimate test of the thoroughbred.

Mac Swiney’s 2,000 Guineas triumph proved that his juvenile form was no fluke and the determination he showed under pressure for Rory Cleary exemplified the grit that is necessary to land the biggest race of them all.

Of course, Aidan O’Brien will play a strong deck of cards which is likely to include Bolshoi Ballet, High Definition, and Van Gogh among others, not to mention a strong British team which could consist of Hurricane Lane, One Ruler, John Leeper, and more, but the fact remains; Bolger has had a plan formulating in his mind for a very long time.

He waited for a colt worthy of an Irish Republican icon and has taken clear aim at British racing’s crown jewel — talk about a date with destiny!

A week from today, the Cazoo Epsom Oaks field will be ambling to the start. The ante-post market has been dominated by the much-hyped Santa Barbara, but discount Snowfall and Dubai Fountain at your peril.

Santa Barbara and Seamie Heffernan (second right) at work on the gallops. Picture: Healy Racing.
Santa Barbara and Seamie Heffernan (second right) at work on the gallops. Picture: Healy Racing.

Frankie Dettori has already seized some golden opportunities on Ballydoyle’s second string horses and Snowfall could be another plum ride for the Italian maestro.

THE RETURN OF FANS

There was a vibrant headline for industry folk to discuss this week as the British government announced that they would permit 12,000 people to attend each day of Royal Ascot next month, a move that comes following positive results from their initial phase of allowing limited crowds to attend events in early May.

For instance, of the 58,000 people who attended events across the sporting and entertainment industries, there were just 15 Covid cases, four of which emerged from the 17-day World Snooker Championship which was held indoors at the Crucible Theatre. This development is significant and will hopefully set a precedent for the summer months and beyond.

Meanwhile, as Royal Ascot’s team organise their fixture to facilitate 12,000 people, Irish racecourses will be watching this evening’s government announcement with bated breath.

As the vaccine rollout continues apace, sport and other recreational activities will be hoping they will be given clarity on when they can expect to welcome the general public back to their venues. At the time of writing, racecourses still cannot permit owners to the races despite crowds flocking to supermarkets and various other retail stores. Hopefully, this situation will change soon.

We have weathered the storm and now it’s time to welcome the summer and some semblance of normality back to everyday life. Whether it be Galway over the summer, Listowel in the Autumn or Leopardstown at Christmas — it will be great to see you back at the races!

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