A lot of water has flowed over the bridge in the meantime, never mind under it, but all of a sudden the first Classic of the season seems an awfully long time ago. Both Henrythenavigator and New Approach, who shared a photograph for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, have amply corroborated the vintage quality of their duel in the intervening months. But their labours yesterday implied that they have not done so without cost, and many observers will now doubt whether these colts can finish the campaign as they began it.
It would be rash, however, to forget how their careers have already testified to the mastery of their respective trainers. Aidan O'Brien was content to blame the autumn ground in Paris for Henrythenavigator's first defeat of the season, while Jim Bolger understandably remained unabashed after winning both the Group One prizes on the Leopardstown card salvaged from Saturday's deluges.
Admittedly, both Lush Lashes and New Approach gave the impression that they could only get the job done after ripping off their gloves, and if the former was running over an unsuitable trip and surface, the same can hardly be said of the latter. Indeed, after watching his undignified scrap with a 50-1 shot in the Tattersalls Irish Champion Stakes, some bookmakers eagerly extended their odds against New Approach in the big races still on his agenda. But to other eyes – notably those of Bolger himself – the colt's travails, unexpected as they were in the absence of Duke Of Marmalade, were largely superficial.
Either way, at least we have now had consecutive Derby winners capable of winning a Group One prize after Epsom, the previous four having failed to find a race of any kind. As ever, New Approach looked in intimidating physical condition, but his prospects seem to hinge increasingly on maintaining a corresponding state of mind.
Certainly he ran another ugly race yesterday, missing the break and then getting fizzed up as Kevin Manning hastened him towards the pace. No doubt some will imagine that the colt exhausted himself in the process, as he may have done when returning from a lay-off at Newmarket 15 days previously. But he did not get tired when pulling too hard over a mile and a half in the Derby, and he did not get tired here either. Instead Manning's growing urgency in the final furlong disguised an almost comical indifference in his mount, whose own efforts became inversely proportionate to those of his jockey. It was strongly reminiscent of the Irish Guineas, where Manning went into overdrive but New Approach declined to raise gear on the firm ground. So while Traffic Guard might have seemed to be closing him down, beaten only half a length at the line, followed by another exposed rival in Mores Wells, the chances are that he was just idling after leading into the straight.
Bolger went so far as to say that it had been "a nice, easy race for him" and that he should come out of it well. "On his previous run at Newmarket he was a bit too keen, because we had to rush a lot of quick work into him in a short space of time," he explained. "There was not really enough pace today and again, we probably overdid the settling. He was only doing what he had to do and Kevin confirmed that he had bundles in the tank."
Of course, it is conceivable that New Approach may be losing interest altogether. It would be fascinating to see him tried in blinkers, but not even a man as independent as Bolger would countenance that. He says that the colt is likely to run in two of three races: the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the Emirates Champion Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Classic. Being just a week apart, the latter pair are surely too close together even for Bolger, while a hard race in the Arc would not be an ideal prelude to Santa Anita. On top of his game, New Approach could certainly put Big Brown in his place out there.
The Breeders' Cup Classic (on a new, synthetic surface) may yet become a target for Duke Of Marmalade, though the original thinking at Ballydoyle had been to point Henrythenavigator to the race. "We'll have to look at plans and the Arc is a race we will have to look at," O'Brien said. "Solider Of Fortune goes there, and we will consider Duke, as well as looking at the Breeders' Cup. The Duke has had a tough season, and we don't want to subject him to soft ground now, with the rest of the year in mind."
Likewise Henrythenavigator, who never got into his stride during the Prix du Moulin. Soon in rear from his wide draw, he stayed on creditably enough for fifth, but Goldikova had long since eased into a decisive lead. The progressive winner was instead harried late by Darjina, with Paco Boy confirming his eligibility at this level in third, despite meeting traffic.
"It was a very close call about him running, as we know that Henry loves fast ground," O'Brien said. "He has ran a good race but the top was coming off the ground. Johnny [Murtagh] said he laboured a little on it, and wasn't able to get hold of it as he normally can. Speed is his big attribute, but that was blunted and he could never get into top gear."
Conditions will presumably dictate his participation, then, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. As for Goldikova, she was contributing to a season of unprecedented success for her trainer, Freddie Head, who will offer the owners a choice between the Mile and the Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
Lush Lashes would be hard to beat in the latter, after confirming her versatility, toughness and class at Leopardstown in the Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes. A winner over a mile and a half last time, she proved sufficiently home on the drying ground to gain first run on a specialist miler in Nahoodh and held on by a neck, followed closely by the four Ballydoyle fillies (among which You'resothrilling and Listen made highly encouraging comebacks). Bolger has several races in mind for Lush Lashes, and nobody could be remotely surprised if she ended up running in them all.
He may be dealing with a more delicate temperament in New Approach, who is now out to 12-1 for the Arc with Ladbrokes. Zarkava is 7-2 favourite, having thrashed no less a filly than Goldikova in her last two starts, though an outside chance might also be given to Kamsin, decisive winner of a showdown between the last two German Derby winners at Baden-Baden yesterday. Unfortunately he would have to be supplemented for Longchamp, and connections may prefer to wait until next year.
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Longchamp, 5 Oct) Ladbrokes: 7-2 Zarkava, 5-1 Soldier Of Fortune, 10-1 Getaway, Prospect Wells, Youmzain, 12-1 Frozen Fire, New Approach, 14-1 Russian Cross, Vision D'Etat, 16-1 Meisho Samson, 20-1 others.
Breeders' Cup Classic (Santa Anita, 25 Oct) Ladbrokes: 3-1 Duke Of Marmalade, Henrythenavigator, 4-1 Curlin, 8-1 Colonel John, Big Brown, Go Between, 12-1 Casino Drive, 14-1 others.
Breeders' Cup Mile (Santa Anita, 25 Oct) Ladbrokes: 4-1 Henrythenavigator, 5-1 Goldikova, Tamayuz, 6-1 Kip Deville, 8-1 Raven's Pass, 10-1 Darjina, 14-1 Red Giant, Whatsthescript, 16-1 others.