Epsom bypass by Bolger hits Oaks standing

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The Independent Online

Anyone would think the man was trying to tell us something. Jim Bolger is unlikely to admit as much, of course. No doubt he would just gaze back in mordant silence for a few seconds, before applying some scrupulously bland veneer to the hidden grain of his thinking. But however little he thinks of the British, or at least of their greatest races, they cannot be quite as obtuse as that. To most ears, he could not be more explicit with a megaphone.

First there was New Approach; now we have Lush Lashes. The latter's performance here yesterday meant that Bolger could, if he so chose, go to Epsom next month with the hot favourite for the Vodafone Derby and Juddmonte Oaks. But it sounds very much as though he may keep both in Ireland, with the local versions of those races as their priority.

Bolger was not here to see his filly pulverise much the strongest field assembled for any of the Oaks trials this year, in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes. But he would have loved to see the looks of bewildered indignation over the notepads and microphones as Ger Flynn disclosed his employer's reservations about running Lush Lashes at Epsom.

"The boss has just been on the phone and he says we're not going to rule anything out," said Bolger's travelling head lad. "At the moment the Oaks at Epsom and the Curragh are on the cards, but it will more likely be the Curragh. We won't rule the English Oaks out, we'll see how she is when we get her home."

Flynn noted that the interval to the Irish Oaks would allow Lush Lashes more time to absorb her second journey to these shores in 10 days. Perhaps Bolger feels that this filly does not take her races quite as well as Finsceal Beo, who last year represented him in three Classics in three weeks.

If the British feel rather paranoid about all this, it is hardly surprising. Bolger has already said he would rather win the Boylesports Irish 2,000 Guineas than the Derby with New Approach, and that he plans to postpone the colt's first start over a mile and a half to the Curragh. And then, last Sunday, Dermot Weld expressed reluctance to supplement Casual Conquest, a brilliant winner at Leopardstown, to the Derby at a cost of £75,000.

Doubled over by those blows, Epsom yesterday received what must have felt like the coup de grâce from Lush Lashes. She came here with the best form, having finished strongly to be beaten barely two lengths in the 1,000 Guineas, if not the biggest reputation. But she soon showed just how wide an abyss divides even the most stylish maiden winners from Classic substance, arriving on the bridle half way up the straight before surging five lengths clear.

The extra distance here enabled her to travel with far more comfort than at Newmarket, and she was quoted no better than 5-2 for Epsom immediately afterwards. But then Bolger lobbed his spanner in the works, and hope revived among the vanquished.

Chief among these was Peter Chapple-Hyam, who had been delighted to see Cape Amber stay on best after giving the rest a start. This filly's fitful spring had reflected that of his yard, and her trainer was ready for a rematch even before discovering that the winner might not be at Epsom.

Next home was another maiden winner, Da Re Mi, who kept on steadily and may yet go to Epsom. John Gosden was "unamused" by Johnny Murtagh's riding on Moonstone, charging forward and across into the home turn. "My filly has had an unnecessarily rough race," the trainer said. "She has cuts on her hind legs and in a race such as this it is unnecessary to have such a hard time."

Moonstone kept on again late, though it would be surprising now if Murtagh did not favour her stablemate, Sail, at Epsom. The Ballydoyle challenge was also thwarted in the Duke of York Hearthstead Homes Stakes, but US Ranger was isolated from the action – which was narrowly dominated by Assertive – and his strong finish for fourth implied that he may repay fidelity over the stiffer track at Royal Ascot.

Folk Opera had given Godolphin theirs first success of the European season in the opener, and the stable accounts for two of the five colts prepared to tackle the Derby favourite, Twice Over, in the Totesport Dante Stakes today.

The ground was pretty firm yesterday and Henry Cecil went to bed last night praying for overnight rain. But if public goodwill counts for anything, Twice Over would float over broken glass. It is hard to think of two more different men than Cecil and Bolger, one a ravaged dandy, the other calculating and ascetic. Cecil, of course, has decided to miss one Classic to preserve his fuel for another, Twice Over having sat out the 2,000 Guineas with the Derby in mind. But it is hard to resist a sense that Cecil's priorities were rather more straightforward.