The lady may not have been for turning, but Jim Bolger apparently is. After announcing in April that the Derby was not on the agenda for last season's champion juvenile New Approach, and then insisting just 11 days ago that the colt was still among the entries for the Epsom showpiece "by mistake", the machiavellian master of Glebe House Stables has produced a volte-face of Churchillian proportions.
New Approach, who runs in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed's wife Princess Haya, was among the field of 18 confirmed at yesterday's five-day stage and the intention is now that he will, after all, line up on Saturday. "If the ground is good or on the soft side of good," said Bolger, "he will run in the race."
Bolger's original outline for New Approach's three-year-old career, which involved snubbing the Derby in favour of waiting for the Irish version after a tilt at the Newmarket and Curragh Guineas (he was second in both), caused turmoil in the betting markets, for the colt had been firm winter favourite for the Blue Riband after his perfect five-race first season.
Yesterday's u-turn provoked another upheaval, accompanied by, presumably, much scrabbling at the back of drawers for discarded betting slips. New Approach is now 6-1 third Derby favourite behind Casual Conquest and Curtain Call.
The news that a horse of the calibre of New Approach is back in the Epsom equation can only be a plus, despite the convolutions of his route to the Downs. But for Betfair exchange players misery and delight in equal measure looms; one hapless layer risked offering the colt at 209-1 and found a taker to the tune of £27.50.
Bolger's re-think has been prompted by a combination of the facts that his chestnut charge has emerged from his run in the Irish 2,000 Guineas 10 days ago in fighting fettle, and the underfoot conditions at Epsom – currently good to soft, with rain forecast – are likely to suit. "I began to realise that he had come out of the Curragh race very well," said the Co Carlow-based horseman. "He didn't lose any weight at all and he's been getting above himself. But as well as that the change in the weather was a significant factor in the decision."
John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed's racing manager, said yesterday that the New Approach's reinstatement was as much a surprise to the Darley team as to punters. "Right at the start of the year Jim said that he felt two Guineas and two Derbys would be too much," he said. "His judgement is now that the horse can go to Epsom, and we'll stick by him. The call from him was a bolt from the blue, but we're very excited to be there."
The Sheikh will also be represented by the Godolphin colourbearer Rio De La Plata, a relative outsider. New Approach's other rivals include three who were supplemented yesterday at a cost of £75,000 each: Casual Conquest and Doctor Fremantle and, more of a surprise, French 2,000 Guineas third River Proud.
Aidan O'Brien, as expected, removed New Approach's dual Guineas conqueror Henrythenavigator from the mix, but still has a team of five, headed by Frozen Fire, Allesandro Volta and King Of Rome.
Bolger has, predictably, come in for a degree of stick for what some see as a cavalier attitude to punters, but gave such arguments typically short shrift. "First we were in trouble for not going, now we're in trouble because we are going," he said. "But with horses things can change, it's the world we live in. And I feel sorry for people who can't cope with minor changes like this one.
"It has been totally my own decision with no influence from the owners, though it has been approved by them. It will be dependent on the man above on what the ground will be but I'd hope we'll run and I'll be happy to be in the line-up.
"It will be good all round if we are. If you win a race with some of the best not there, there's less satisfaction. Now whoever wins this will be able to stick their chests out properly."
Bolger started Derby week with a win at Naas in Co Kildare yesterday by a smart-looking filly called Cuis Ghaire, whose name can translate from the Irish as "joke". It remains to be seen who has the last laugh on Saturday.
* Jockey Ian Power remains under observation in hospital in Waterford following a bad fall at Tramore racecourse last Friday. The 27-year-old sustained head injuries in the accident and, despite making a slight improvement over the weekend, is still in a serious but stable condition.Reuse content