Dawn Approach nears the dusk of a season he heralded with such brilliance in the 2,000 Guineas in more need of redeeming his reputation than would have seemed possible before the Derby. At Epsom he surrendered his air of invincibility during a frantic two and a half minutes in abject fashion, finishing last of 12 after being sent off 5-4 favourite.
Lack of stamina and a juvenile refusal to accept any restraint accounted for that defeat and he restored his authority in an epic struggle with Toronado at Royal Ascot. But defeat to that colt followed at Goodwood, then an unplaced run behind Moonlight Cloud in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in August, when he was subsequently found to be ailing.
Jim Bolger, Dawn Approach's trainer, has reported him restored to health for his challenge this weekend, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes back at Ascot. "Dawn Approach is very well and we are very happy with him," Bolger said. "I am hopeful he will be able to cope with the softer ground but we won't be sure until after the race."
While Dawn Approach has form on an easy surface, Bolger avoided running him on deep ground on more than one occasion during his two-year-old campaign. But the going at Ascot – good to soft, soft in places on Tuesday – is likely to thin the opposition, with Toronado, the 1,000 Guineas winner Sky Lantern, Aidan O'Brien's Declaration Of War, Magician and the South African runner Soft Falling Rain all potential absentees.
Bolger has strong reservations about the rain-softened ground for his other flagship runner, the Irish Derby winner Trading Leather, in the Champion Stakes on the same card. "Trading Leather is very well but we are very concerned about the ground with him," Bolger said.
His fellow Irish trainer John Oxx, who has endured a meagre season and will enjoy less patronage from the Aga Khan in future, unearthed a Classic prospect for next year when Ebanoran, an Oasis Dream colt out of the 1997 Irish Oaks winner Ebadiyla, made a winning debut in the Aga's colours at the Curragh. "He seems to have the gears they were trying to put in the pedigree," Oxx said. "He'll be a nice horse for next year. We'll start him off in a Guineas trial early next year and see where he goes from there."