Friday 23 February 2018

New Approach shows his class to claim Derby glory

Curragh re-match could be on the cards for Epsom rivals, writes Ian McClean

New Approach heads up to the finish line to win the Epsom Derby (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
New Approach heads up to the finish line to win the Epsom Derby (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Ian McClean

After Jim Bolger decided the Epsom Derby was good enough for New Approach, then New Approach proved he was good enough for the Derby. That forms the headline for what has been an extraordinary, dramatic and controversial week on the run-up to a race whose own relevance had been called into question in the prologue.

Described by the trainer as "the biggest mistake I have made in a long time" the Master of Coolcullen will surely have adopted a revisionist view of leaving New Approach amongst the Derby entries last month in the glorious aftermath of a thrilling victory in what could arguably still be called the world's most coveted race.

One thing is certain -- the 2008 Derby was a better race for the inclusion of the Bolger runner and the trainer's U-turn in running the horse following successive defeats in two Guineas was gloriously vindicated. Only the connections of runner-up Tartan Bearer might choose to dispute that, but for which their horse would have been a four-and-a-half-length winner of the Derby and this morning be acclaimed a champion.

In what appeared a most competitive renewal on paper with more apparent permutations than Rubik's Cube the cream ultimately rose to the top. Tom Segal asserted in his column yesterday morning that "the Derby isn't a race you can solve by looking solely at the form", but the outcome served to disprove that hypothesis with the champion two-year-old and Guineas dual runner-up beating the Dante winner followed by the Derrinstown winner. Idiosyncratic the track may be, but it didn't get in the way of the talent.

New Approach's victory is all the more meritorious for having to race against his natural style. Electing for restraint as a substitute for the free-wheeling style that has served him so imperiously in his career to date in an effort to get a half a mile further than he had ever attempted, the Galileo colt seemed to resent it. The slower early pace dictated by a pair of triple-digit no hopers didn't help matters with Kevin Manning having his arm-sockets exercised to the full towards the rear of the 16-runner field. That Manning was able to conserve enough energy to deliver a winning burst up the rail at the business end despite the earlier exertions simply vindicates what connections have insisted all along about New Approach's talent. Neither Ryan Moore nor Pat Smullen can have any complaints either as they gave their mounts every opportunity and both acquitted themselves with credit.

Some wives get chocolate and flowers from their husbands; the luckier ones get jewellery but not many get a Derby winner, and Princess Haya appeared quite overwhelmed in the winner's circle by her husband's generosity and her trainer's fortuitous oversight.

Bolger himself appeared more moved than he might have imagined before the event he was in danger of eschewing just a week prior. He said afterwards: "It (winning the Derby) is very special. I thought before the race it would be up there with the best. I very willingly say (now) it is the best."

Dermot Weld was in no way forlorn about the performance of Casual Conquest either.

"The horse has done me proud. I think it was a very good Derby and I don't want to take anything away from the winner who is an exceptional horse.

"The next stage is probably for a rematch in the Irish Derby."

The Irish Derby is certainly in the diary now for New Approach with the further mention of the King George, York, Irish Champion and the Arc suggesting that Bolger is likely to mine for plenty eggs before delivering over his golden goose to Godolphin at season's end.

Bolger's assertion that Manning's was "the best ride he had ever seen around Epsom" did not meet with the same enthusiasm from the stewards who slapped a three-day ban on the rider for infringement caused in the straight

Bookmakers were at variance in their reaction to the result with many holding ante-post liabilities since last season on the winter Derby favourite.

However, Totesport spokesman Damian Walker summarised the thinking of many when he said: "Those punters who backed Tartan Bearer after the totesport Dante Stakes must feel sick as Jim Bolger had ruled New Approach out of the Derby at that stage. The muted reception for the winner said it all."

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