Bolger offers Godolphin a new Dawn
Approach heads for the Derby to help Sheikh Mohammed put shame of Zarooni behind him
It was only a profession of objectivity, but nobody else will be taking its terms at all literally. "It doesn't matter who owns or trains the horse," Jim Bolger said. "I'm very impressed with him." In reality, when Dawn Approach takes his unbeaten record to Epsom next month he will be defined as much by the men around him, as by his own radiant brilliance. For he will not be alone in being asked to prove his staying power – or in being sustained, as he does so, by Bolger himself.
However artificial the comfort Dawn Approach is purported to have provided Godolphin, with his barnstorming success at Newmarket on Saturday, he has at least refreshed the pristine excitements that first persuaded Sheikh Mohammed to build a racing empire. The disintegration of its citadel a fortnight ago, in the disgrace of his principal trainer, has plainly not ruptured its foundations.
The Sheikh's mere presence on the Rowley Mile – never mind the metaphor he obligingly provided before the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, when hiding in the saddling boxes from a sudden, wild squall – served as a statement in itself.
It turned out to be the only one he was prepared to make, admittedly, so abruptly did he turn on his heel when the Godolphin steroids scandal was raised in a television interview after the race. The Sheikh had confined himself, to that point, to a brief reprise of precisely the sort of aphoristic patriotism that the whole Godolphin adventure had originally been intended to amplify. But if the daily challenges of life in the Arabian peninsular breed a congenital resilience, as he proposed, then he sooner owes this relief to the damp and green of Co Carlow – and to the singular genius who had already got him out of one embarrassing pickle.
Whatever the point of principle that prompted them to eschew Coolmore stallions at the yearling sales, the emergence of Galileo left the Maktoum brothers to pay a heavy price on the racetrack. But then they found Bolger, whose bold investment in the young Galileo yielded a priceless conduit into his blood.
Bolger produced two of Galileo's first champions in Teofilo and New Approach, and sold both to the Sheikh. Now he has enabled Coolmore's traditional adversaries to be first to profit from Galileo as a sire of sires.
He could not have done so in more timely fashion. However absurd it seems to include Dawn Approach in the vaunted litany of Godolphin champions – the colt having as much to do with its founding precepts as New Approach or indeed Raven's Pass, who both raced in the colours of the Sheikh's wife when likewise left with their original trainers – the stain left on Godolphin's royal blue silks by Mahmood al-Zarooni's eight-year ban makes Bolger a still more precious ally.
It had become hard to know, from the outside, whether Godolphin's recent deficiencies could be attributed to training or breeding input. But the Sheikh's claim to expect the highest standards has lately been satisfied in its most fundamental application – namely, his choice of trainers and pedigrees – only by one man.
Bolger, who retained a 49 per cent share in Dawn Approach, has yet to confirm plans formally with the Sheikh but it would be astounding if they did not now agree on the Investec Derby. Bolger views the extra half-mile as an issue, on paper, but a laid-back demeanour encourages him to believe that Dawn Approach could yet emulate his sire at Epsom.
"On his breeding you would expect he would not get [the trip]," Bolger said yesterday. "But because he's so relaxed, and has so much class, there is a reasonable chance he will get it. For that reason, it probably will be decided that he'll go there. He wouldn't have the stamina influence New Approach had in his pedigree, but that doesn't mean he will not stay.
"If New Approach had the temperament of Dawn Approach, he'd have stayed the Gold Cup distance. Because he was so industrious, it limited his staying ability." Pending the traditional series of Derby trials, starting at Chester this week, Dawn Approach is already as short as 6-4 favourite with Coral, and no better than 2-1 elsewhere. And the one guarantee, for any contemplating such odds, is that nothing will count for more than the identity of his trainer.
CHRIS McGRATH'S NAP: Seattle Drive (4.0 Beverley)
Coming back to the boil for his shrewd new trainer and now looks very well handicapped.
NEXT BEST: Mean It (5.05 Windsor)
Well backed before an eye-catching start for his new stable round here last month, left with too much to do after meeting traffic, and meets far more exposed rivals here.
ONE TO WATCH: The lightly raced Labienus (David Lanigan) looks on a fair mark but ran out of room when mounting a challenge at Lingfield last week.
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