Dawn banishes dark clouds at Godolphin
We can't be certain of Sheikh Mohammed's persuasion on the subject of pathetic fallacy, but the weather will record that whilst storm clouds gathered and heavy rain fell as the horses went to post for the 205th 2,000 Guineas on Newmarket's Rowley Mile yesterday, the field returned to a radiant sun.
That field of 13 was led home at a distance of five long lengths by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin blue carried by the Jim Bolger-trained Dawn Approach, which extended his unbeaten career sequence to seven with an annihilation of the best his three-year-old peer group could muster.
The storm clouds surrounding Godolphin amidst the steroid scandal of the last fortnight will have been lightened, if only temporarily, by yesterday's result and vindicated Sheikh Mohammed's (present to greet his winner) decision to buy the majority stake in the colt after his victory at Royal Ascot last summer. The season's opening Classic had been billed as a two-horse race – with a duo of unbeaten colts (one from England, one from Ireland), neither of whose connections would entertain defeat before the race, dominating the market.
With two pacemakers blazing the trail, the big two (Toronado and Dawn Approach) sat third and fourth through the first three-quarter mile. At the two-furlong pole Richard Hughes lit the fuse on Toronado which promptly skipped ahead, closely followed by his main adversary.
But just as we began to prepare for a drooling duel, the body language of the jockeys betrayed how the race was to belong to just one. The normally animated Kevin Manning grew increasingly motionless whilst the normally motionless Richard Hughes became increasingly more animated.
Dawn Approach continued his habitual trait of being strongest in the latter part of his race with his superiority accentuated by the fading aura of Toronado, which was outstayed by 150/1 outsider and ultimately pipped for third by his stable companion Van der Neer.
Dawn Approach's win means that Irish horses have now won seven of the last 11 iterations of the UK's first Classic. The colt was providing Bolger with his first ever 2,000 Guineas – remarkable considering the trainer has won five of the last seven runnings of the Dewhurst. The trainer admitted afterwards to being "blown away" by the victory, adding, "I didn't expect him to win by five lengths, he can only improve from there".
Significantly, Dawn Approach was supplemented for the Derby just three weeks ago, for which he is now as low as 6/4. He will bid to emulate the achievement of his sire New Approach, which was beaten a whisker in the Newmarket race by Henrythenavigator before going on to victory at Epsom. Bolger indicated he and Sheikh Mohammed had agreed to "sleep on it" before making a decision on the horse's participation at Epsom.
His pedigree certainly doesn't assure his stamina, although jockey Kevin Manning was being very optimistic after yesterday's achievement. "He has a fantastic temperament. If any horse is gonna get the trip this horse has got the temperament. Today was his best performance so far and the extra furlong certainly helped."
Sheikh Mohammed was equally impressed by his unbeaten colt. "I'm very, very happy to come and see a good horse winning the Guineas – and I think he is a great horse."
However he was somewhat more circumspect when asked about whether in the light of events he had thought about bypassing a trip to Newmarket himself. With some obvious discomfort he dismissed the idea with the succinct retort: "I always face a challenge".
On the racecourse, at any rate, he seems perched to get just that with his still unbeaten Dawn Approach at Epsom on June 1.