Jim Bolger’s Dawn Approach crowned king in St James’s Palace thriller
Ireland reign supreme on opening day of Royal Ascot with four winners, including the three Group Ones
Dawn Approach, ridden by Kevin Manning (left), lands a thrilling St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
There was irony in a JP McManus-owned horse putting a halt to the greatest streak of success ever enjoyed by Irish horses at Royal Ascot yesterday as the famously chic and world-renowned flat extravaganza briefly seemed to take on a hint of Cheltenham.
A clean-sweep of the opening three Group One races, with Dawn Approach’s dramatic St James’s Palace Stakes victory backed up by Sole Power in the Kings Stand and Declaration Of War in the Queen Anne, was followed by a brilliant Coventry Stakes win by Aidan O’Brien’s 20/1 third-string War Command so that hopes of a barely-imaginable clean-sweep of the six-races by Irish raiders looked tantalisingly on.
The first six of the seven races on day two of Cheltenham in 2011 were famously won by Irish horses, and after this year’s record tally of 14 winners at jump racing’s greatest meeting, it came as an almost eerie jolt back to reality to see McManus’s familiar green-and-yellow silks coming out on top in the Ascot Stakes on board Well Sharp .
The fact Well Sharp was ridden by Irish jockey Fran Berry and trained by Cork native Jonjo O’Neill meant it could have been regarded as cold comfort for a home team that also claimed the Windsor Castle winner Extortionist who just happened by to be the second leg of a 152/1 double for Johnny Murtagh.
And there was no disguising the green hue to day one of a week that may not yield 14 winners but which correspondingly has a world-wide reach that the more localised charms of Cheltenham cannot hope to match.
With a Kentucky Derby winner in Animal Kingdom reduced to the role of also-ran behind Declaration Of War in the Queen Anne, Sole Power edging out South Africa’s champion sprinter Shea Shea, and Dawn Approach steeling the resolve of Sheikh Mohammed’s beleaguered global Godolphin operation, yesterday’s reverberations will ripple much further than the pubs and card-schools of the South West of England.
Was all class
None will resonate more than Dawn Approach’s remarkable bounce back to form which was all class but also contained the sort of grit any die-hard National Hunt fan could appreciate.
As he gets older, Dawn Approach looks to be becoming more and more like his sire, New Approach, in the way he does so much wrong in a race and yet still manages to pull victory out of the fire.
New Approach famously pulled desperately hard in the 2008 Derby but still managed to win. Although his son’s antics at Epsom were even worse, and impossible to overcome, back at a mile yesterday Dawn Approach’s raw class allowed him to overcome another display of impulsiveness, and a series of collisions that would have stymied most other horses.