THE evergreen rider Kevin Manning was seen to his brilliant best this week when the QIPCO 2000 Guineas victor Poetic Flare was a dominant winner of the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes for Ireland, one of the highlights of Royal Ascot’s opening day.
The race, which is restricted to three-year-olds over the round mile, looked competitive ante-post, but proved anything but, with 54-year-old jockey Kevin Manning and his mount travelling with confidence before pulling away for a four and a quarter length victory.
Trainer Jim Bolger — who bred the son of Dawn Approach — has kept Poetic Flare busy, running in three different 2000 Guineas over a three-week period, but that proved no barrier for the 7/2 jolly.
Lucky Vega (4/1) chased the jaw-dropping winner home, with Battleground (11/1) a neck further back in third.
The victorious veteran jockey said: “The ground is what this horse needs. You want that good, quick ground and that’s what we got today, and he showed how good he is.
“He travelled very well; there was a nice, even pace in the race and always something to aim at. He just travelled so easy into the race, and when I asked him to pick up, he put the race to bed in a matter of strides.
I couldn’t believe that I was travelling so well and was half sitting down rather than having to go forward.
"He’s an unbelievable horse. He’s a very tough individual who does himself very well. He has taken his racing very well.”
Manning also rode the winners sire to big-race success; “I don’t want to compare him to his sire Dawn Approach, I won the St James’s Palace stakes by a short-head in 2013, although if you are going on this race his dad only won by a short-head not more than four lengths like Poetic Flare, but they are both fantastic horses.
“Riding these good horses is fantastic; it’s going well and I’m enjoying life. This place has been a lucky hunting ground for us over the years - we haven’t had loads of runners over the years, but the ones we’ve brought over have all had chances. We have just the one runner this week, and to win is marvellous.”
Speaking to Sky Sports from his home in Carlow, Bolger said: “I’m very relaxed about it. I have tremendous confidence in this horse, and I was expecting him to go and do that.
“We always knew he was hardy from the word go, even when he was being broken in, you couldn’t keep him quiet.
“We’ve bred from the family since the very early 1980s, so a long time.
“When you have a horse winning the St James’s Palace like that you don’t really think about all the relatives and the breeding, you wouldn’t care if he came to you off the back of a truck as long as you had him.
This horse is so hardy he’s unbelievable, you have to give it to him to keep his back down.”
Una Manning, daughter and assistant to Bolger and wife of jockey Kevin Manning, said: “Dad has always had faith in him. I phoned him after the race and said: ‘Well done, you’re a legend — gosh he did that well’.
“He said: ‘That’s exactly what I was expecting’. It was wonderful, it was fantastic.
“I just had two words from Kevin — he said he’s chalk and cheese on the ground. So, I think that probably answers our questions about France and our questions about the Curragh.
“I’m so thrilled for my parents because they put so much into it over the years, from the time they started out just the two of them, small business. Look, it’s just amazing.
“I just want to say thank you so much to our staff, they’ve worked extremely hard through very challenging times, and without our staff, we wouldn’t be here in this parade ring today.
“Thank you to everyone who has managed to put on this wonderful show at Ascot today. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy.”
For trainer and jockey, it wasn’t the first time tasting success at the Royal meeting; they have gone to war there on many occasions which has resulted in nine Royal Ascots winners for Bolger and six victories for stable rider and son in law Kevin Manning.