Epsom expects prompt Approach in Derby
Wednesday 04 June 2008
Even though Jim Bolger may have given punters something of a runaround over New Approach's participation in the Derby, the Epsom authorities will not countenance a repeat of the pre-race walkabout the colt performed before the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The Rowley Mile showpiece was six minutes late off, thanks to the leisurely stroll to the start by New Approach. He was accompanied by his "security blanket" in the form of non-participating stablemate Metamorphosis and, while there has been no suggestion that the resultant delay was in any way tactical, his rivals were rather left waiting his lordship's pleasure.
The concept of being escorted, or "ponied", to the start is borrowed from North America, where runners are routinely led by outriders. The practice has been permissible here for the past two years and for a high-mettled, even quirky, horse like New Approach, is a boon. The close presence of a familiar member of his kind prevents too much independent thought and keeps the star relaxed.
But at Newmarket last month, the precautionary privilege came close to being abused. New Approach and Kevin Manning were taken to the parade ring by Metamorphosis and Bolger's assistant Adrian Taylor and picked up again by their wingmen on the exit to the track. Last away in the canter parade, the quartet then slowed and completed the last half-mile in their own time.
"We are delighted that the champion two-year-old may be running and are anticipating a request from Jim Bolger to allow New Approach to be ponied," Epsom clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, said yesterday, "and in principle there will obviously be no problem. But the details of the manner and timing have yet to be discussed.
"We want the race to be off on time. And the other runners must be fairly treated and not inconvenienced. A delay due to ponying, such as happened at Newmarket, will be unacceptable."
Timekeeping at Epsom lately has been good, after some deplorable efforts during the Nineties. Sinndar's race in 2000 went off on the button and since then the only prolonged delay came two years ago, when poor, ill-fated Horatio Nelson's soundness was checked at the start.
Whether Metamorphosis will be allowed into the saddling ring or the parade in front of the stands remains to be seen but he will be an integral part of the Glebe House team on the day. A four-year-old gelded "cousin" of Teofilo (their dams are half-sisters), he is all but useless as a racehorse but is still worth every oat he eats.
In the wake of New Approach's on-off-on Derby run some bookmakers adopted what they hope will be seen as the good guy role yesterday, acting to sweeten the pill for punters who took his trainer's word that the son of Galileo, runner-up in the 2,000 Guineas and Irish equivalent, would not be lining up at Epsom.
Boylesports will settle all bets, win or each-way, placed between 21 April, when Bolger announced the race a definite no-go for the winter favourite, and Monday, when he revealed his U-turn, without the chestnut, who is now as short as 5-1 third favourite behind Casual Conflict and Curtain Call. Another Irish firm, Paddy Power, will add a 20 per cent bonus to winning bets on other horses struck within the same timeframe.
The easing of the ground at Epsom was a prime factor in Bolger's change of heart – New Approach hated every stride of his Guineas effort at the Curragh on firm going nine days ago – and Cooper yesterday reported the ground on the Downs soft, good to soft in places. "That is as soft as it should get," he said. "We are not anticipating much more rain and the weather is set to improve."
Scare stories are par for the course in the build-up to the Derby and the latest came when 6-1 shot Tajaaweed, just about best-fancied of the three Sir Michael Stoute contenders, pulled a shoe off in his stable. His connections quickly allayed fears that the Dynaformer colt, winner of Chester's Dee Stakes, would miss Saturday's £1.4m contest.
"When the stable staff went to feed him they noticed he had lost a shoe," Angus Gold, racing manager for owner Hamdan Al-Maktoum said, "but he is not lame and providing there are no problems when they put a shoe back on tomorrow, he should be ready to rock and roll."
It could be considered that Tajaaweed's name, unattractive to English eyes, lessens his chance of victory. But in Arabic it commands deep respect; it refers to bettering one's knowledge of the rules of recitation when applied to the Koran.
The final field for Friday's Oaks will be decided this morning. The market is dominated by Irish-trained fillies, with Bolger's Lush Lashes favourite ahead of Dermot Weld-trained Chinese White, but the horse for money yesterday was one of the seven Aidan O'Brien possibles, Adored. The daughter of Galileo, winner of a 10-furlong Curragh Group Three last time, has been backed into 12-1 with Sail, the perceived stable first string, a notable drifter.
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