Dawn Approach brave at Royal Ascot

| June 19, 2013
Mohammed bin Rashid crowned winner of St James's Palace Stakes with Dawn Approach at Royal Ascot

Mohammed bin Rashid crowned winner of St James’s Palace Stakes with Dawn Approach at Royal Ascot

Dawn Approach, the English 2,000 Guineas winner and abject beaten favourite in the Epsom Derby, narrowly prevailed in a thrilling battle with Toronado in the St James’s Palace Stakes, the highlight of day one at Royal Ascot. He won by a short-head at the end of a dramatic race, with favourite-backers kept on tenterhooks by a photo-finish and then a stewards’ inquiry.

Despite his stablemate Leitir Mor setting a decent gallop, Dawn Approach failed to settle once more, albeit not so dramatically as in the Derby, when he lost his unbeaten record and finished last. As he made his challenge up the middle of the track in the home straight, he was pushed wide by the wayward Glory Awaits and in turn hampered Toronado on his outside.

Of the pair, it might be argued that Dawn Approach lost marginally more momentum but both rallied to fight it out through the final furlong. Toronado, so disappointing in the 2,000 Guineas when hampered by a breathing problem, managed to sustain his effort this time and seemed sure to go past.

Instead, Dawn Approach showed tremendous toughness to hold on. He was immediately praised as “a great battler” by his jockey, Kevin Manning, who had been so dismayed about the colt bolting underneath him in the first half at Epsom.

Mars ran on to be third, ahead of the French challenger Mshawish. Most disappointing was Mars’s stablemate from Aidan O’Brien’s yard, Magician, the winner of the Irish Guineas, who faded out of contention in the final quarter-mile.

Sheikh Mohammed, owner of Dawn Approach, told Channel 4: “He’s proved to me that he’s the best miler in the world.”

Jim Bolger, the winning trainer, praised for letting the horse take his chance so soon after the Derby flop, said: “Sure, that’s the nature of the sport: you take chances and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But Sheikh Mohammed was a very willing risk-taker.”

Asked about the interference in the straight, Bolger said: “He’s a very tough horse, he was fortunate to survive that. I knew he wouldn’t let me down.”

At 5-4, Dawn Approach became the first winning favourite at this year’s Royal Ascot.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was crowned winner of the one mile G1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Trained by Jim Bolger, Kevin Manning led Godolphin’s Dawn Approach to win the 350 thousand-dramatic race by a short-head.

The event was attended by Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Deputy Ruler and Finance Minister Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, members of the British Royal family, and a number of sheikhs.

For a man who does not gamble Sheikh Mohammed is on warm and friendly terms with chance. He was in urgent need of a result as Dawn Approach, the 2,000 Guineas winner and abject beaten favourite in the Derby, went into the stalls for the St James’s Palace Stakes here on Tuesday. By the length of a playing card he got it.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk,” the Sheikh said after Dawn Approach had held the late charge of Toronado to win the feature event on Royal Ascot’s opening day, adding: “Today has proved to me that this horse is the best miler in the world.” His first point is a fair one but the second remains a matter of opinion, for all that the risk proved more than worth the reward.

This was an enthralling race from the start, much like the Derby 17 days before, and for much the same reason. Dawn Approach, just as he had at Epsom, refused to settle in the early stages and he was pulling hard for his head through the first two furlongs.

Back at a mile from a mile and a half, though, it did not end his chance as thoroughly as it had in the Classic, when he faded to finish last.

Kevin Manning, Dawn Approach’s jockey, still had enough horse underneath him to launch a strong burst in the final quarter-mile. As he did so, though, he took a bump from Magician on his inside, who was passing one on from Glory Awaits. Dawn Approach then bumped Toronado in turn and, since Toronado had nothing on his outside but turf, he may well have suffered most of all.

Dawn Approach was now in front and Richard Hughes, Toronado’s jockey, set off in pursuit but, while he may have just headed his rival, Dawn Approach showed enough grit to prevail, admirably so in view of the energy he had wasted at the other end of the race.

There was, inevitably, a stewards’ inquiry but since Dawn Approach had not instigated the interference, the outcome was inevitable. Toronado had been knocked sideways inside the final two and then beaten a short-head, yet stood no chance at all of getting the race from the stewards, an unfortunate treble to say the least.

Toronado’s misfortune, though, allowed Sheikh Mohammed to celebrate victory even before the result of the inquiry had been announced. “This is a race that makes stallions,” Simon Crisford, the racing manager for the Sheikh’s Godolphin ownership operation, said afterwards, but its value will be measured in more than the inflated cost of a cover when Dawn Approach retires to stud.

For the last two months of its near 20-year existence the Godolphin racing operation has scarcely been mentioned without the word “doping” following close behind. Now, there is at least some hope that the worst of the scandal, in which Godolphin’s former trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni was found to have been administering anabolic steroids to at least 22 of his horses, may now be behind them.

And redemption, if such it is, has arrived not thanks to the efforts of Saeed bin Suroor, who is in charge of nearly 400 of Godolphin’s horses in Newmarket, but Jim Bolger, who has only one runner in their royal blue colours.

In the immediate aftermath of Dawn Approach’s miserable run in the Derby it seemed unthinkable that he would be ready to contest a Group One event barely a fortnight later.

Bolger, though, saw enough promise in his colt about a week after the Classic to let the owner know that he might be back in the game.

“I sent a text to Simon Crisford saying, ‘Be prepared for a shock,'” Bolger said afterwards. “Two weeks and a couple of days isn’t too soon for me, and the horse was very happy throughout that period.

“He was fortunate to survive [the interference] but he did and the rest is history. He’s very tough and hardy. I’m very happy, and relief plays a part in it, but I knew he wouldn’t let me down.”

Manning, too, felt the result was the right one. “He was a little bit keen,” the jockey said, “but I got there and once I got my head in front, Richard [Hughes on Toronado] was fighting me but I was always holding on.” Hughes, though, thinks his mount would have prevailed and took the opposite view. “I would have won,” he said. “I deliberately went round the outside so I wouldn’t get a bump.”

There are no firm plans for either of Tuesday’s principals, though their rivalry could continue in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in July, and both are also entered in the Coral-Eclipse, over 10 furlongs, at Sandown earlier in the month.

A Group One win over a mile and a quarter would certainly add more to Dawn Approach’s value than another success at a mile, and the Champion Stakes in October, a race won by his sire, New Approach, is still a possible target at the end of the year. The most significant risk, however, has already been rewarded.

 


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