Bolger backing Birchdale for more Festival glory

The trainer enjoyed a Dublin Racing Festival to savour in 2022

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Birchdale gets home under Mark McDonagh at last year's Dublin Racing Festival

Enda Bolger is dreaming of a delightful double as Birchdale looks to back up last year’s success in ‘his Gold Cup’ at the Dublin Racing Festival, writes Ben Hart.

Bolger claimed his first ever Grade A success with the nine-year-old in 2022, one of just seven trainers to taste success as Willie Mullins enjoyed a memorable weekend.

Birchdale is winless in five outings since but Bolger remains optimistic he can defend his Handicap Steeplechase crown in familiar surroundings at Leopardstown.

“He had run a lovely race there at Christmas time over three miles and we just thought that coming back a little, we may have a better chance,” recalled Bolger.

“He had a lovely ride on the day from Mark McDonagh.

“It was his Gold Cup – a great prize to win and it was disappointing at Punchestown in another Grade A.

“He’s a funny horse in that you have to catch him right on the day. He’s a good horse when things go right but we’re going there in good touch this time around.

“He’s been in good form and he’s looking fresh so we’re looking forward to this year. He likes the track and that was his Gold Cup so we’re aiming for it again.”

Bolger, whose team at Bruree is just five-strong, feels the Dublin Racing Festival can be the making of budding jockeys and trainers and earmarked McDonagh, who went on to record a Cheltenham Festival triumph onboard Banbridge, as a prime example.

And ahead of this year’s event, which takes place on the weekend of February 4-5, Bolger says he is relishing the opportunity to mix it with Ireland’s best trainers once more.

“It’s the place you want to be,” he said. “Leopardstown, Punchestown, Galway – they are the meetings where you want to be getting the big prizes.

“For a small yard like us, it meant an awful lot and also for Mark McDonagh, it gave him a lift too.

“It’s our kind of Cheltenham and it’s great just to have a horse ride well there, let alone a winner.

“I think the timing of it now, coinciding with Cheltenham, is just right. It gives the horses enough time to recover for Cheltenham and the ground is always nice so that is good for the horses.

“It’s just a great couple of days – you’re riding on a Grade 1 track in front of a huge crowd and any success is a huge lift for everybody on the yard.”

Tickets for this year's Dublin Racing Festival areavailable to buy here.

He’s been in good form and he’s looking fresh so we’re looking forward to this year

- Enda Bolger