Originally from Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny Enda Bolger is an honorary Limerick man now having been ensconced at Howardstown House for many years.
Address: Bruree, Co Limerick
Principal Jockeys: J T McNamara, Nina Carberry
Most Notable Wins: La Touche Cup (L’Ami 2010, Garde Champetre 2009, Spot Thedifference 2007 + 2004, Good Step 2006 + 2005, Buailtes And Fadas 2003, Risk Of Thunder 2002 + 2000 + 1999 + 1998 + 1997), Glenfarclas Handicap Chase Cross Country Chase (Garde Champetre 2009 + 2008, Heads Onthe Ground 2007, Spot Thedifference 2005), Martell Fox Hunters' Chase (Elegant Lord 1999), Champion Hunters’ Chase at Punchestown (Dixon Varner 1997, Elegant Lord 1996 + 1995 + 1994), Christies Foxhunter Chase (Elegant Lord 1996)
Enda Bolger rode what was at the time a record 413 point-to-point winners in a glittering career before concentrating on training and going on to dominate the specialised area of cross-country and banks races. Through the exploits of Risk Of Thunder, Spot Thedifference and Garde Champetre amongst others, he has won the La Touche Cup at the Punchestown festival 12 times, and been victorious in four of the six runnings of the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham festival. Garde Champetre has won the three miles and seven furlongs Prestbury Park marathon twice and led home an unprecedented 1-2-3 for the stable and its primary patron JP McManus in 2009, beating L'Ami and Drombeag.
In a fine riding career, Enda rode primarily for the legendary PP Hogan, winning no less than five renewals of the Champion Hunters Chase at Punchestown, including three wins on Ah Whisht in 1986, 1987 and 1990. In addition to that, until JT McNamara surpassed it in 2006, Bolger had previously held the record for the number of wins in point-to-points with 413, having been crowned champion point-to-point rider on seven occasions.
A New Era Of Training
Having turned his hand to training in the early 1990’s, Enda was quick to show that he had been a keen pupil under the masterful Hogan. He continued to ride in races throughout the decade and his name will forever be associated with two great horses in that period - Elegant Lord and the remarkable Risk Of Thunder. Elegant Lord won 13 races in total including the Foxhunters Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 1996, the Champion Hunters’ Chase at Punchestown in 1994, 1995 and 1996 and the Foxhunters Chase at Aintree in 1999.
Enda was his regular jockey for the majority of his victories and the son of Lord Ha Ha retired with a record of 13 wins from 20 starts, failing to finish in the frame just once. Risk Of Thunder joined Bolger’s team having already won the La Touche Cup twice and the horse immediately came to national attention when it emerged that Bolger would be training him for the famous actor, Sean Connery. The son of Strong Gale proved unstoppable over the banks at Punchestown, winning the next five renewals of the race and it would almost certainly have been six had the festival not been called off in 2001 due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. While he was unbeatable over the banks, Risk Of Thunder also finished fourth to Glebe Lad in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in 1999 and was second in the famous Velka Pardubice Chase in Czechoslovakia that same year.
After Bolger rode Risk Of Thunder to success in the La Touche Cup in 1999, he decided to hang up his boots and retire from the saddle to concentrate on training, a decision that has coincided with him becoming even more dominant in the cross-country sphere. With Risk Of Thunder retiring after his seventh win in the La Touche Cup in 2002, Bolger still won the next five renewals with three different horses: Buailtes And Fadas (2003), Good Step (2005 and 2006) and Spot Thedifference (2004 and 2007). If any horse could claim to have taken over the void left in Bolger’s yard by the retirement of Risk Of Thunder, it was undoubtedly Spot Thedifference. While Risk Of Thunder was at his best around the banks course at Punchestown, Spot Thedifference prospered most at Cheltenham, winning cross-country races at that track on no less than seven occasions and garnering a cult following in the process. One of his finest moments came when winning the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase Cross Country Chase at the Festival in March 2005 under a top-class ride from JT McNamara, but for sheer drama, it would be hard to beat the very last start of his career in November 2007.
Not a One trick Pony
Just six weeks off turning 15, Spot Thedifference returned to Prestbury Park for the cross-country chase. He was backed into 11/4 and justified the support by summoning up one last surge to outgun Casadei up the famous hill, despite having been headed after the second last. The drama was not finished yet as ‘Spot’ slipped up as he was being pulled up and the screens were raised around him as the officials feared the worst. He rose to his feet soon after though and entered the winner’s enclosure to one last, deafening ovation.
Following such a dramatic victory, Bolger and McManus decided that it was best to go out on a high and they retired Spot Thedifference soon after. Heads On the Ground, L’Ami and Garde Champetre filled the void. Heads Onthe Ground won over the banks at Punchestown prior to justifying favouritism in the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. But it was L’Ami and Garde Champetre who became Bolger’s primary talents, their success shining a light on the trainer’s ability to freshen up horses that had either been deemed past their best or lost interest in racing. Garde Champetre once held the title of the most expensive National Hunt horse-in-training ever sold at public auction having been purchased for 530,000 gns by McManus after a promising novice hurdle season. He failed to come up to expectations for Jonjo O’Neill over orthodox hurdles and fences, but soon found his niche when switched to Bolger in the beginning of the 2007/8 season. L’Ami, on the other hand, had very much proved himself at the highest level over fences for Francois Doumen, finishing in the frame in Grade 1 company on a number of occasions and once running Kauto Star to a neck in the AON Chase at Newbury. Following a disappointing season in 2007/8, he was transferred to Bolger and hasn’t looked back since. Since joining Bolger, Garde Champetre and L’Ami have dominated the cross-country and banks race scene.
At the time of writing, Garde Champetre has won four times around the cross-country course at Cheltenham, including twice in March, as well as garnering the La Touche Cup at Punchestown. L’Ami has won four times over the banks at Punchestown, including in the La Touche Cup last April when besting another Bolger inmate, Freney’s Well. However, Bolger is not a one-trick pony by any stretch of the imagination and indeed, he looks to have a very exciting prospect on his hands in the shape of Arabella Boy. A point-to-point winner as a four-year-old, Arabella Boy won his maiden hurdle and then followed up with a good novice success in Fairyhouse in October 2009. He followed this up with some good placed performances behind Torphichen, Cousin Vinny and Rigour Back Bob before turning his attentions to chasing last summer. While he has yet to get into the winners’ enclosure, there have been decent placed efforts in races won by Thegreatjohnbrowne and Magnanimity which suggest that it is only a matter of time. Pocket Reader and Colonel Mortimer are two others to keep an eye on. The former dotted up in a point-to-point at Ballingarry in June while the latter won a ladies bumper by a distance under Nina Karberry in Killarney in July. Rest assured that Bolger will continue to spread his wings with the likes of these two, Arabella Boy and more but that is unlikely to come at the expense of his domination of the banks and cross-country disciplines.
Info. supplied by Horse Racing Ireland - Updated January 2011