Capricious, blessed with a streak of independent thought, tough and determined, sometimes even difficult, but boundlessly talented. The horse New Approach and the man Jim Bolger have been mirror images as they tested and dared each other during the year. And here yesterday their combined brilliance reached aglorious peak as the Derby winner sealed his career and his place in history with an imperious six-length victory, in a course-record time, in the Champion Stakes.
For once the 10-furlong contest was not named with hyperbole. For if the substance of New Approach's victory may be questioned – there was only one other Group One winner among his 10 rivals – the style cannot be. After getting a perfect tow through the early stages from his pacemaker, Upton Grey, and settling sweetly in Kevin Manning's hands, the chestnut swept to the front fully three furlongs from home and from that point the only question to be answered was who would follow daylight in for second place. That proved to be Twice Over, with Linngari a length and a half third.
With the winter sun glistening on his bright copper coat, New Approach was a glorious sight as he stretched clear and he, Manning and Bolger were given the ovation that was their due as they returned to the winner's circle. It was the colt's last run; his next home will be at one of Sheikh Mohammed's stallion stations.
New Approach's rocky path through life has been well-documented: he was orphaned at birth, brought up among cattle, arrived at Bolger's yard in Co Carlow as a spoilt brat, and has alternately shown signs of wilful impetuosity and bone-idleness in his racing career.
"He has been a challenge, one ofmy biggest," admitted Bolger. "With horses, you never stop learning, and this boy has taught me a lot. But today it was as if he had it all worked out that it was his last run and he gave me the two fingers, as if he'd just been having a laugh until now. He stood still for me to put the saddle on, he was perfectly behaved going to the start and he was absolutely bomb-proof during the race."
New Approach, who runs in the silks of Sheikh Mohammed's wife Princess Haya, was only the third horse to achieve the treble of the top two-year-old race, the Dewhurst, the Derby and the Champion Stakes. You have to go back a while for the first two, Ormonde in 1886 and Lemberg in 1910. Compared with their starting prices – 1-100 and 12-100 respectively – New Approach's 6-5 was generous, almost insulting for a Derby hero.
"He was the complete package today," added Bolger. "His last run, when he won at Leopardstown, put him spot-on, in fact I've never had him better. And it just shows the measure of the horse that he could win like that and still have something left in the tank. I consider myself very lucky to have had my hands on one like him."
A little earlier Bolger had led back his third successive winner of the Dewhurst Stakes, after Intense Focus followed in the hoofprints of New Approach and Teofilo to create another entry in the record books for the Glebe House Stables team.
Manning deflected all praise away after the Champion Stakes – "I get the easy job, I just turn up and ride him" – but getting Intense Focus home for an unprecedented riding treble in the seven-furlong Group One contest was harder. The rock-hard son of Giant's Causeway, running for the ninth time this year, had only noses to spare over Lord Shanakill and Finjaan.
Fast ground and headgear was the key to yesterday's success for the colt, a 20-1 shot. "We felt he was keeping a little bit for himself," said Bolger, "and when we tried blinkers the first time, he got bogged down in heavy ground. Today he was able to show his best."
Intense Focus was cut in price for next year's 2,000 Guineas, but remains among the long-shots. Yesterday's favourite, Rip van Winkle, who finished sixth, stays at the head of an open market for the Classic.
In the day's feature handicap, the Cesarewitch, last year's runner-up, Carraciola, went one better tospring a 50-1 surprise. The Nicky Henderson-trained 11-year-old beat Arc Bleu (15-2) three lengths.
Though Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation did not have a runner in either of the top-level contests here, and indeed have won only one European Group One this year, a global view shows better results, and early yesterday All The Good added to the international haul in the Caulfield Cup in Melbourne.