Did you know: Finsceal Beo is one of the rare Flat horses that well and truly captured the hearts of the Irish racing public. She was hardly trained by an unknown handler, with Jim Bolger having been at the top of his profession for many years. Nor was she a bargain basement buy at the sales, €340,000 is a lot of money in any currency. But, for some reason, her success has had an air of the triumphant underdog about it. Perhaps the key to the puzzle is her owner, the larger than life character of Michael Ryan. It is difficult not to take an instant liking to the builder from Dungarvan who has worked his way up from the bottom of the ladder to his current position of prosperity. Yet, he remains the same down-to-earth character that one imagines he has always been and for that reason, it is easy to see why the whole country rallied around his supremely talented filly.
As mentioned earlier, Finsceal Beo cost quite a bit as a yearling and while her pedigree was not the overflowing with top-class performers, it has come to life since the emergence of Finsceal Beo and the €340,000 she cost at the Goffs Million Sale looks value now. Following the sale, Ryan sent her to Jim Bolger and named her Finsceal Beo, which translates to 'Living Legend'.
She made the perfect start to her career, winning a 6f maiden at Leopardstown in the last week of April by ¾-length from Yario. However, after that things did not go completely to plan as she suffered a hairline fracture which kept her out of action for eight weeks. At this stage the suggestion of Classic glories to come for the daughter of Mr Greeley would probably have been greeted with the some very bemused looks, but not for the first time, Jim Bolger would prove just how adept he is at getting the very best out of his charges.
Climbing The Ladder
Returning from an absence of just over four months, Finsceal Beo was sent off the 2/1 favourite to defy top-weight in an 8f nursery at Tralee. However, having hit the front with 1½f to run, the lack of a recent run told and she weakened in the closing stages to be beaten a length by Numen. On the face of it, it was undoubtedly a disappointing effort from a filly with Classic aspirations, but Jim Bolger did not panic, he knew just how much his filly needed the run that day at Tralee. 18 days later he expected a much improved effort from Finsceal Beo when running her in the inaugural Goffs Million over 7f at the Curragh. However, a poor draw and a lack of peak fitness conspired to see her beaten again, this time finishing sixth beaten 3¾ lengths behind Mrs Beatrix. Despite finishing where she did, the run represented further progression and Bolger was adamant that she was finally approaching peak fitness just in time for her first venture into Group 1 company.
Group 1 Glory
Following her two aforementioned defeats, it was no surprise that most people gave Finsceal Beo little chance in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe day and as a result, she was sent off at 20/1 on the day. However, when Kevin Manning asked her to hit the front with 1½f to race, her response was breathtaking. She stretched clear from her hapless pursuers in hugely-impressive fashion, eventually coming home five lengths in front. While such an impressive win from an almost unconsidered outsider took many by surprise, when Bolger explained the circumstances behind her defeats, the racing public began to realise that this filly may just be as special as she looked at Longchamp.
When Bolger realised that there was still some doubt over Finsceal Beo's status as Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, he make the bold move of dropping his star filly in class to contest the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket less than a fortnight later. Some questioned how wise this decision was, but when Kevin Manning unleashed Michael Ryan's filly with a furlong to run, any doubts soon evaporated as she shot clear to prevail by an impressive three lengths. That win was enough to seal her position as the Champion Two-Year-Old Filly and she went into the winter months with just Sander Camillo lying ahead of her in the ante-post market for the 1,000 Guineas.
While the winter and spring months went anything but smoothly for Jim Bolger's other star juvenile of 2006, the unbeaten Teofilo, Finsceal Beo enjoyed a faultless preparation. Following Sander Camillo's defeat on her seasonal reappearance in the Nell Gwyn Stakes, Finsceal Beo leapt to the head of the 1,000 Guineas market. As May 6th got closer and closer, the vibes from the Bolger camp seemed to get stronger and stronger and when the big day arrived, Michael Ryan's pride and joy was sent off the 5/4 favourite. Despite there being 21 runners in the field, it was remarkable just how straightforward the race went for Finsceal Beo. Prominent from the outset, Kevin Manning let out an inch of rein with 2f to run and the response was immediate. She showed a tidy turn of foot to go clear of the field on the stands side and while her compatriot, the John Oxx-trained Arch Swing, made a bid for glory on the outside, she could only get within 2½ lengths of Jim Bolger's superstar filly. When she crossed the line she stopped the clock at 1:34.94, the fastest ever time recorded for a Newmarket Classic, a remarkable achievement for a filly. The scenes in the winner's enclosure after the race resembled Cheltenham in March rather than those would one expect after an British Classic with Michael Ryan leading his entourage in a rendition of Dungarvan My Home Town.
Just a week later, Jim Bolger turned out his star filly again, this time in Longchamp for the French 1,000 Guineas. Sent off at 2/5 to prevail, confidence in the Bolger camp was understandably high, that was until a torrential downpour of rain materialised 15 minutes before the off. The rain softened the ground just enough to blunt her electric pace and having quickened to the lead in the final furlong, she was agonisingly headed in the very last stride by the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Darjina. While the defeat was obviously disappointing for the Finsceal Beo team, their thoughts soon turned to the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh on May 27th.
A Memorable Homecoming
With the Curragh Classic set to be her third run in just three weeks, many questioned whether Finsceal Beo would have the constitution to pull off such a remarkable feat, but having been sent off at 9/10, the daughter of Mr Greeley did not disappoint. She had to battle for it, but after fighting her corner more like a lion than a horse, she got the better of Dimenticata by a neck, once again prompting memorable scenes of celebration in the winner's enclosure. After such a busy three weeks, it did not surprise that Finsceal Beo failed to run to expectations in her three remaining starts of the season, but she would return refreshed and reinvigorated in 2008.
Back For A Four-Year-Old Campaign
Finsceal Beo began her four-year-old season in the sunny climes of Dubai, finishing a highly-creditable fifth against the boys in the Dubai Duty Free. She returned to Ireland just under two months later to contest the Tattersalls Gold Cup and she acquitted herself exceptionally well, making the multiple Group 1-winner Duke Of Marmalade work hard. Just three weeks later she was sent over to Royal Ascot and recorded yet another highly-creditable race to finish a close third to Haradasun in the Queen Anne Stakes. As had been the case the previous season, her early-season exertions seemed to wear her out and her remaining three starts of the season proved to be disappointing. Following a defeat in Listed company at the Curragh, the decision was taken to retire her.
While her racing career ended on a slight low note, her exploits in her Classic campaign will not be forgotten and if she can produce one as talented and tough as herself, she will make a serious broodmare too.