19 October 2008

He went down slow and sideways. He came back straight and faster – faster than any horse has travelled the Champion Stakes mile and a quarter at Newmarket. New Approach may be half-crazy at the canter, but he is a master at the gallop.

He now retires to stud, but this last race was the best of them – better than anything in his unbeaten two-year-old campaign, far better than his brave and battling seconds to Henrythenavigator, and even more impressive than his historic Epsom power display that won the Derby.

For this time New Approach relaxed behind his pacemaker and all the energy wasted pulling Kevin Manning’s arms out in earlier races was poured into his limbs when wanted. The others were already in trouble before he went to the front three furlongs out and they were left trailing in his wake, with Twice Over six lengths away second in front of Linngari in third.

The clock stopped at 2 min 0.13 sec, almost a second under the best time for this 10-furlong trip but the real record has to go to the vitality of the horse and the perceptive patience of his training team. For after standing down at the finish for both last year’s Dewhurst and this year’s 2,000 Guineas I saw first hand how Manning earned a whip suspension for excessive effort. New Approach then had another ultra-tough race in the Irish Guineas, a brilliant but traumatic passage through the Derby and two other races more recently. Yet here he was fresher and better than ever. He must be made of iron.

And Jim Bolger’s team also show steel-like perseverance. For while New Approach is a quiet and healthy individual in his box and walking round the yard, once ridden he has an alarming tendency to hook off for the horizon. All the team deserve a medal, especially Adrian Taylor who is in the saddle most mornings. But special mention must go to the hack Metamorphosis, who has the luckless task of trying to pen New Approach against the rail as they canter to the start. Since the superstar travelled the whole journey almost totally sideways, poor Metamorphosis must have ended feeling a bit like the picador’s horse in a bullfight.

But the trick worked. New Approach should make a mighty stallion but don’t ask me to break in the progeny Leave that to the Bolger team whose ability to make their horses thrive on a routine not dissimilar to the trainer’s own tough Christian work ethic had earlier been shown when Intense Focus got home in a three-way finish for the Dewhurst. It was his ninth race of this his two-year-old season – and his best.

Such a blanket finish makes any of them unlikely Classic winners next season but Intense Focus’ efforts should see him well settled at stud by the time he gets to 11, at which age brave hurdler Caracciola stormed home in the Cesarewitch. This equine hero first ran at Mulheim in Germany in 1999, since when he has won seven Flat races, four hurdles and two chases in no less than 51 outing New Approach will never know what he is missing.

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