Bolger's Dawn decision vindicated
JIM BOLGER can now add the art of the impossible to his list of achievements after Dawn Approach, the 2,000 Guineas winner, re-established his reputation as a great horse by winning the St James's Palace Stakes 17 days after finishing tailed-off last in the English Derby.
No rational trainer ever has Epsom and Ascot on the same itinerary for a Classic winner – just as a holy man might be unlikely to include Mecca and Jerusalem on the same pilgrimage – but Bolger has never been hamstrung by convention.
Originally, Dawn Approach was going to have a holiday after the Derby, while Bolger went "back to the drawing board." One can only hope Mrs Bolger's holidays are longer.
Recalling the sequence of events, Simon Crisford, racing manager to Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin, explained how he had received a text from the trainer last week.
"It said: 'Be prepared for a shock.' When I spoke to him he said he was thinking of running Dawn Approach at Ascot and I said: 'Hang on, let me speak to Sheikh Mohammed.'
"Sheikh Mohammed said: 'Jim bred, owns and trains this horse. He knows every hair. If he says run, we run'."
"It's the nature of the sport to take chances and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't," said Bolger. "I didn't get too low after the Derby and I don't get too high. This game can tame tigers, so I never get carried away."
Sheikh Mohammed added: "The biggest risk is taking no risk at all."
Bolger, who seems to imbue everything he touches with a steely robustness, was vindicated after the chesnut colt, which he still part-owns with Godolphin, went toe-to-toe with Toronado over the last furlong and won by a hard-fought short-head in what will surely prove the race of this year's meeting.
Mars was third and Mshawish fourth, but it was all about the first two home restoring reputations.
What happened to Dawn Approach in the Derby will always remain a mystery. "It's been only three weeks, but I could sit here for 12 months and still not know what went wrong," said jockey Kevin Manning, reflecting on why the colt left the stalls like he had been stung by a hornet.
Bolger explained what happened next: "We stuck a Hackamore (bit-less bridle) on him for the first week after Epsom because he had a sore mouth.
"It was very brave of the lad, Pat O'Donovan, because it's akin to having no brakes, but when he lobbed away down the gallop I thought it best to just put a line through the Derby."
Again Dawn Approach was keen enough for most people's liking, fighting for his head early on, although Manning dismissed it as nothing more than "taking a bite," which makes this result all the more remarkable and not dissimilar to his sire New Approach's Derby victory when he pulled hard for most of the way.
Ultimately, though, the race was a bit too messy to include among Ascot's best, but the finish, and the winner's grim determination not to be beaten, was enough to raise the hairs under the back of top hats.
Earlier in the straight before both horses had fully hit their stride, Irish Guineas winner Magician veered sharply left. He almost broadsided Dawn Approach, which, in turn, knocked Toronado, himself with something to prove after flopping in the Guineas, into the middle of the track.
A stewards' inquiry, not surprisingly, exonerated the winner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)