Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 March 2018

Take 'smart' Approach for Derby glory

St Nicholas Abbey can become the first horse to win three Coronation Cups
St Nicholas Abbey can become the first horse to win three Coronation Cups
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

ON an Epsom Derby day charged with the potential of epic historical ramifications, Dawn Approach gets the opportunity to join the immortals by becoming the third Irish-trained horse since 2009 to complete a precious Classic double.

Following Refuse To Bend's capitulation in the prestigious 12-furlong Group One 10 years ago, Sea The Stars and Camelot are the only 2,000 Guineas heroes to have been granted a stab at following up here.

Both rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion, and now Jim Bolger's unbeaten colt can maintain that impressive completion rate.

A striking rather than handsome individual due to his big white face and chestnut coat, Dawn Approach is a very different animal to his sire New Approach, which nearly ruined its Derby chance by pulling Kevin Manning's arms out in 2008. More relaxed and straightforward but extremely smart, Dawn Approach is almost workmanlike in comparison.

Nonetheless, as we were reminded at Newmarket, his finest attribute is what he finds for pressure. After Toronado eye-balled him two-furlongs down, he ground him into submission before stamping his authority all over the race to draw five lengths clear.

That resolve will be crucial as much has been made of whether or not a mile and a half will be within his compass.

Naturally, the trip is a concern, but Dawn Approach's calm demeanour and brave constitution are incalculable positives. While Sea The Stars and Camelot were also going beyond a mile for a first time in the Derby, they were bred to stay. In that respect, maybe Dawn Approach has more in common with Hawk Wing, which went toe-to-toe with High Chaparral here in 2002.

Hawk Wing, a luckless second in the Guineas, was a flashier horse that was outstayed by his stable-mate in a gruelling edition. However, such was his sheer class, he confounded his stamina limitations to still draw 12 lengths clear of the remainder.

Dawn Approach has the same sort of precocious quality, and the question is whether or not any of his 11 rivals can take him out of his comfort zone, as High Chaparral did with Hawk Wing. All the evidence that we have seen so far would suggest not.

If there is a horse capable of pushing Dawn Approach to the edge, it is surely the Joseph O'Brien-ridden Battle Of Marengo.

One of a five-strong battalion out to secure Aidan O'Brien a fourth Derby, the Derrinstown Stud trial victor will relish that the ground is on the slow side, and he is a game horse that will be absolutely primed for today.

Still, the suspicion is that Dawn Approach – which appears to have courage to match his class – will prove utterly superior.

Mars and Ruler Of The World are the other Ballydoyle contenders of some interest, but neither appeals as being far enough along in development to prove equal to such a thorough examination. This, then, is Dawn Approach's to lose.

He has by far the best credentials as he sets out to deliver Bolger, already one of the international racing community's most revered innovators and icons, another famous triumph in the premier Classic. Moreover, he can provide a redemptive first coup in the race for the royal blue silks of Sheikh Mohammed's troubled Godolphin brand.

Earlier on, St Nicholas Abbey should set things up for the Derby raiders by becoming the first horse to win the Coronation Cup three times, but he is hardly a value option at long odds-on. At up to 12/1, Stone Of Folca is on his return in the five-furlong Dash.

The John Best-trained gelding set a scorching time when winning the race last year, and continued to show up well thereafter.

Crucially, though, he is best fresh, with a short-head defeat and two wins to show from three seasonal debuts. Off just a 3lb higher mark than in 2012, Steve Drowne's mount should have a big say.

Elsewhere, Colm Murphy's Dance Floor King is of interest in the concluding maiden hurdle at Worcester. Murphy is an infrequent traveller for such modest targets, so Dance Floor King's presence under Andrew McNamara is not to be ignored.

Best Bet: Dance Floor King

Irish Independent

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