The decision about limping New Approach's participation in this afternoon's 143rd Irish Derby will be made this morning, after his trainer, Jim Bolger, applies his meticulous gaze to the Epsom hero's damaged foot. The colt, hot favourite to complete the Derby double, was discovered on Friday evening to have suffered bruising to a hoof. Although his condition improved yesterday, his race for full fitness will go down to the wire.
"There is increasingly less heat in the foot," said Bolger. "We are still treating it, but he will not run unless we are satisfied he is 100 per cent."
There are precedents for top-level triumph in the face of 11th-hour injury; Bosra Sham spent the night before her 1,000 Guineas with an ice-pack on a foot similarly hurt. But even for a prize as dear to his heart as the most prestigious of his local Classics, Bolger will take no chances with a colt earmarked for stud duties under Sheikh Mohammed's Darley banner next year.
The irony of the situation – the Irish Derby was the colt's declared preferred target early in the spring, with the real thing a controversial though in the event serendipitous afterthought – may not be lost on Bolger. His appeal to the fates may be found in the name of his runner in the last at the Curragh yesterday. Cothrom Na Fienne translates as "give us a chance".
First Group One blood of the weekend in Co Kildare yesterday went to Britain, as Tartan Bearer's Sir Michael Stoute stablemate Promising Lead took the Pretty Polly Stakes from Mad About You, who shares her trainer, Dermot Weld, with Casual Conquest. Bolger's representative in the ten-furlong filly contest, Finsceal Beo, faded to an eased-down last of nine. It was a first success at the top level for both Promising Lead and Ryan Moore in his new role as Stoute's stable jockey. "She saw out the distance very well," said the rider. "She was idling in front but was never in any danger."
Aidan O'Brien and Johnny Murtagh notched a treble with Westphalia in the juvenile maiden, King Of Westphalia in the ten-furlong handicap and Septimus, cementing his position as Yeats' natural successor in the staying division, with a clear-cut seasonal debut in the Curragh Cup. The Melbourne Cup is pencilled in for the five-year-old.
Bolger will hoping for his second Irish Derby, Weld for his third, Stoute his fourth, and O'Brien, who sends five into the fray today, his sixth. The perceived Ballydoyle first string is Epsom sixth Alessandro Volta, Murtagh's choice.
O'Brien's dominance of the card's supporting two-year-old feature, the Railway Stakes, has been almost complete, with nine of the past 11 winners, including Rock Of Gibraltar and George Washington. He runs three of the five contestants, headed by Mastercraftsman, but the favourite is likely to be the Bolger-trained Royal Ascot runner-up, Intense Focus.
Yesterday's domestic programme was also dominated by the Irish as Tony Martin took the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle with 14-1 shot Arc Bleu. After a rough passage Adrian Nicholls sent Arc Bleu weaving through the pack to catch Halla San (16-1) in the final stride to score by a head, with trailblazing Bogside Theatre (10-1) and Akarem (50-1) just behind.
It was a close-run thing even for Arc Bleu to get to post – he got into the race for a crack at the £123,300 prize only as a reserve, and then he missed his booked ferry and did not arrive at the track until midnight.