Chris McGrath: Bolger takes New Approach on misguided path as Henrythenavigator sets true course
Saturday 10 May 2008
It is one thing for racehorses to scorn logic. Over time, in fact, they teach us to expect little else. But it is quite another for their masters to be infected with the same aversion.
How else are bystanders supposed to view the peculiar games being played with the two colts who shared that epic finish at Newmarket last Saturday? Henrythenavigator, who snared New Approach with his brilliant speed, could well be asked to go another half mile in the Vodafone Derby. And New Approach, having rallied close home as he began to throb with the stamina of his sire, is meanwhile to stay at a mile in the Boylesports Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Remembering his days with New Approach's trainer, Tony McCoy says that there was never any point arguing with Jim Bolger: "He has an answer to everything." But it must be said that Bolger came up with a pretty lame one when asked why he is proposing to eschew Epsom with New Approach (with Bolger, below). He replied merely that he has yet to win the Irish Guineas, and that it was a race he would like to win.
Of course, that was Bolger at his most sardonic. He is presumably keeping the real, unanswerable retort to himself. The best guess is that he has a patriotic desire to make the Irish Classics bigger races than those at Epsom. Somehow, in selling New Approach to Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya, he has retained sole supervision of the colt's racing programme. And that, as he observed himself, was really very kind of them.
Bolger added that he did "not think the Epsom Derby does that much for a stallion career." Given that in New Approach he was talking about a son of Galileo, whose Epsom performance so infatuated him that it became the foundation of his own professional resurgence, that must be ranked a fairly insulting remark – not just to Epsom, but to the intelligence of anyone who heard it.
Perhaps he felt secure in the knowledge that his new patrons remain ill qualified to differ. When the Sheikh's team start producing the top-class stallions their expenditure demands, not to mention the Derby winners, then we shall hear and heed what they say.
And maybe that is at the root of all this. If the Derby remains the lodestar, then breeders can go to only one stud. If you want to breed a Derby winner, you send your mare to Galileo or Montjeu, both standing at Coolmore.
Little wonder if John Magnier and his partners have sprung jealously to the Derby's defence. In fairness, Henrythenavigator does have at least a marginal chance of getting the trip. Regardless, his reputation would readily absorb a failure to get home. For anyone who cherishes the Turf's greatest race, it would be gratifying to see the gamble pay off.
Both camps are represented in the Totesport Derby Trial at Lingfield today. Campanologist makes his debut for Godolphin, having beaten a subsequent winner at the Craven meeting. Funnily enough his pedigree is similar to that of Henrythenavigator, but he seems to have acquired the dourness common to so many horses trained by Mark Johnston.
Sure enough, however, Ballydoyle would seem to have a more obvious Derby type in Alessandro Volta. This colt is understood to have made considerable improvement since his reappearance, when his saddle slipped. Quicker ground today and the extra distance will suit a colt from the family of Kayf Tara and Opera House.
The one to beat is clearly Curtain Call. Having divided New Approach and Henrythenavigator at the Curragh last summer, and made an immaculate start for his new trainer at Nottingham last month, he is already second favourite for Epsom. Luca Cumani seems in no doubt that this is an eligible Derby colt, and he should know, but his reluctance to run him on drying ground today invites caution at the likely odds, and likewise his 5lb penalty.
But then there is obviously no point trying being too logical about it.
Budding prospect in Tajaaweed
A vintage Chester, every frock and tie resembling blossom in the first caress of summer. And the meeting is also right back in its pomp on the track as well. Recent Classic winners graduating from the Roodeye include the 136th and 140th winners of the Dee Stakes, Oath and Kris Kin. But the general consensus yesterday was that the 145th, Tajaaweed, made only a slender claim to emulate their Derby success, having been all out to beat Unnefer.
The second sets a very honest standard, in fairness, and the faith of Sir Michael Stoute also demands respect for Tajaaweed. Last autumn Stoute immersed him straight into Group One company after his debut success, albeit that proved too much, too soon. The trainer has another feasible Derby type in Tartan Bearer, who meets Twice Over in the Totesport Dante Stakes at York next Thursday. But Angus Gold, Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager, indicated that Tajaaweed had now earned the right to go to Epsom.
"He's a big horse, must be 16.3, so it was nice to see him handle the track so well and progress from two to three," he observed. "Richard [Hills] just let him find his feet and I thought the second had slipped him, but he knuckled down well for an inexperienced horse. I think he will have gained a lot from the experience, particularly round this track."
Gold said that he would be surprised if Tajaaweed, a son of Dynaformer, failed to get the extra 365 yards at Epsom, despite his dam's relatively speedy pedigree. All in all, Blue Square's offer of 20-1 looked a reasonable foothold in what remains a slippery market.
Moment of truth for Washington Irving
The final day of the Chester carnival also featured its most striking performance, Macarthur finally breaking his fetters in the Blue Square Ormonde Stakes. He was in a class of his own here, and could yet end up a Group One colt – just as he was supposed to be this time last year, when only third of five in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown.
Tomorrow his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, again reaches this most significant of junctions on the road to Epsom, the race that volunteered three consecutive Derby winners in Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral, not to mention Dylan Thomas, beaten in a photo at Epsom two years ago.
O'Brien has won five of the last seven runnings and by all accounts Washington Irving remains his most plausible Epsom candidate. That status seemed a little shaky after his reappearance defeat by Unwritten Rule, unlucky as it was, but the improvement since made by so many of his stablemates suggests that he could yet look the part.
One such is Hebridean, who impressed at Gowran last weekend, having previously looked pretty limited against Moiqen over this course and distance. Those colts meet again here, having had Unwritten Rule back in third that day, and should provide an instructive measure of Washington Irving's progress.
With further improvement guaranteed at the Derby trip, the hunch here is that 14-1 may no longer be available by Monday.
Godolphin rely on Rio De La Plata
Godolphin's revival as a force in juvenile Pattern races last season, with two Group One wins, had seemed to promise a corresponding dividend in the Classics. But Ibn Khaldun ran deplorably in the 2,000 Guineas and it must be hoped that Rio De La Plata can restore belief in the French equivalent at Longchamp tomorrow. It certainly looks a smart call favouring the Poule d'Essai des Poulains with a colt who so relished this track last autumn, and there is no doubting the substance of his overall form.
The home team is led by André Fabre and Thewayyouare, whose Group wins at Saint-Cloud last autumn included one at the expense of Centennial, himself since prominent in Derby betting. Sean Mulryan has sold a majority interest in the colt to Coolmore, who will also be represented through the Ballydoyle colt, Georgebernardshaw. Aidan O'Brien also has a strong candidate for the fillies' race, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliche, in Halfway To Heaven.
Zaahid to surprise back over right trip
In the meantime a host of races are televised this afternoon, none offering a better opportunity than JAMBORETTA (nap 1.45) at Ascot. She looked a potential Pattern performer when reverting to this trip on her return. Zaahid (2.20) may also have been low on fuel in recent starts, in his case over a mile, and looks value at 14-1 for the big handicap.
Summer jumping musters unusual quality when a similar pot is offered at Haydock. Leg Spinner finally resurfaces but I'm So Lucky (2.00) is yet another that might benefit from a drop in trip, having travelled powerfully for a long way when second over two and a half miles last time.
After three days down the road at Chester, after all, it is not just horses that run out of stamina.
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