Top trainer takes aim at Australia
December 14, 2008
LEADING European trainer Jim Bolger has taken an extraordinary swipe at Australian racing and slammed the media in Victoria for its treatment of fellow Irish handler Aidan O'Brien after the Melbourne Cup.
Bolger, who was a mentor to O'Brien early in his career, insisted "Australians have a lot of growing up to do" and scoffed at the fact that the country's most popular race was a handicap.
Speaking to the The Sunday Age at Sha Tin racecourse as he prepared to saddle his champion filly Lush Lashes in today's Hong Kong Cup, the 66-year-old said: "The way Aidan was treated Down Under was disgusting, there are a lot of people who should feel ashamed."
His comments follow a controversial running of the Melbourne Cup when O'Brien's three runners trailed in at the back of the field after setting a fierce pace.
Stewards at Flemington summoned O'Brien 90 minutes after the final race on Cup Day to quiz him over the riding instructions he had given his jockeys. However, Bolger, who has trained a host of big-race winners, including this year's English Derby victor New Approach, insisted the officials had it wrong, saying: "I suppose that's what happens when you get professional stewards. People have to justify themselves and their position."
Asked if he would ever have a runner in Australia, he replied: "Maybe if you had a proper race over a mile and a half in which the colts carried nine stone and the fillies eights stone eleven (pounds) then I might come out. But you think the Cup is one of the best races in the world even though it is a handicap. A handicap? Imagine.
"That's not what proper international racing should be about."