21 October 2007
The future is best – especially when it promises an argument which cannot be solved until next spring. Irish challenger New Approach maintained his unbeaten record and his status as Europe’s top two-year-old by winning a star-studded Dewhurst Stakes. But the heavy weather he made of it raised as many questions as it gave answers – 5-2 for next May’s 2,000 Guineas doesn’t look that generous.
First, credit where it’s due. A horse cannot do more than beat all those lined up against him. Before the start yesterday serious cases were being made for Raven’s Pass, Rio de La Plata, Fast Company and even McCartney, and pundits were hailing this as the two-year-old race of the season. Changed, come-from-behind tactics appeared to confuse New Approach for a while. Kevin Manning had to keep in touch early and again when he joined Raven’s Pass in the lead, but despite all this he still had a half-length in hand at the line.
What’s more, his trainer Jim Bolger claimed to be delighted with the display and since, uniquely, he won the same race and the same four lead-up events with top- rated Teofilo last year, his is a crucial opinion. “New Approach is very talented, tough and hardy. We overdid the settling today and that nearly cost us the race. But we know how to solve that problem for the Guineas. I was never really worried.”
Some of us were, and not just by New Approach’s efforts in the race. He is clearly a quirky colt and made his own piece of history by becoming the first horse at Newmarket to be “ponied” (led to the start by another horse) down to the stalls as is common practice in America. He also made a couple of full-scale protests before entering the winner’s enclosure, leading Bolger to explain pithily: “We pander to his idiosyncracies.”
The worry to the outside eye is that idiosyncracy can lead to reluctance and if New Approach is to win next year’s 2,000 Guineas he is going to have to be a lot sharper in his response. Standing down on the track the memory remains of Manning having to really roust and whack his partner to get up alongside Raven’s Pass and then to hang on from the rapidly closing Fast Company. He won all right but it looked hard work.
It was, of course, rain-softened ground and that certainly seemed to put cement in the legs of Raven’s Pass in the final furlong. His trainer John Gosden is keen to renew battle in the 2,000 Guineas as will Fast Company, who will now spend his winter in the Godolphin training camp out in Dubai. Bolger, being Bolger, will continue to sail ahead in his own sweet way and one can only hope fate will spare him the cruel trick it played on Teofilo.
That horse was headed not just for the Guineas but for the Derby and even the Triple Crown only for injury to bring about his early retirement. Don’t expect New Approach to duck much in the season ahead.
The Champion Stakes also went abroad, the smashing little grey Literato coming all the way from Jean-Claude Rouget’s stables at Pau in southern France to inch out the Aidan O’Brien-trained Eagle Mountain with the other French challenger Doctor Dino third ahead of Creachadoir. Literato’s courage was praised to the skies by his trainer who should win some international award for unbelievable industry, having recently saddled winner number 4,184 to surpass Martin Pipe as the winning-most trainer in Europe.
But the real, and for British fans, enviable significance of Literato’s success is that his owner Herve Morin is France’s defence minister, the first member of the French cabinet ever to win a Group One event. The days of Parliament rising for Derby Day are long gone, the much-missed Robin Cook has gone to an early grave and it’s hard to imagine any British counterpart having the genial enjoyment of Monsieur Herve, who said: “My father was a racegoer [turfiste] and as a kid I went to all the tracks in France. Having a horse is a dream come true.”
That’s exactly what happened to one punter from Stretford in Manchester. For the admittedly not inconsiderable outlay of £3,650 he came up with the only winning line in the totescoop6 to land a record £1,519,301 winning dividend. It all came down to the 33-runner Cesarewitch and the Irish horse Leg Spinner and jockey Johnny Murtagh could get themselves quite a welcome if they included Stretford on their homeward journey.