Toronado may be a better option in St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot
Animal Kingdom set to get the ball rolling in Queen Anne Stakes
Kevin Manning and Dawn Approach winning the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 04th. After the horror-show at the Epsom Derby the Jim Bolger-trained star will drop back to a mile for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot today. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Dawn Approach’s class is proven. But if the 2,000 Guineas winner can bounce back from his Derby horror-show and win today’s St James’s Palace Stakes he will also prove himself to be as tough a performer as we’ve seen in a long time. And the suspicion he might just be that exceptional is the focal point of Day One at Royal Ascot.
That that can be said when no less a figure than the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom kicks off world racing’s most prestigious week of racing in the Queen Anne Stakes says a lot about the enigma that Dawn Approach now presents.
Failed in Derby
Horses have in the past failed in the Derby and successfully come back to a mile for the St James’s Palace. Marju was runner-up at Epsom in 1991 and won at Ascot just 13 days later. The legendary Tudor Minstrel was fourth in the Derby and did the same in 1947. But neither reappeared on the back of such a shocker as Jim Bolger’s star put in just 17 days ago.
On a week in which the memory of the great Henry Cecil will cast a shadow over everything, it is easy to imagine the late master-trainer eagerly-anticipating like the rest of us what Dawn Approach can produce so soon after a display of rank intractability that saw dreams of a Guineas-Derby double shrivel to nothing inside seconds.
It was just the sort of display Cecil feared Frankel would produce if he’d attempted the Derby challenge in 2011. He instead waited for this race and scraped home. Dawn Approach comes on the back of finishing stone last over a mile and a half.
Weirdly that last-place finish could work to his advantage today against a trio of Ballydoyle hopes led by the Irish Guineas hero Magician, as well as the main English hope Toronado who is on a retrieval mission of his own having struggled to fourth in the Guineas at Newmarket.
Kevin Manning went into preservation mode in the last quarter mile at Epsom and evidently succeeded to the extent that Bolger feels Dawn Approach is sufficiently well to make a much more rapid return to action than even he initially envisaged. “I have no reason to think he is any less of a horse now than when he won the 2,000 Guineas,” the trainer said yesterday.
But in many respects this is much more of a mental than physical test. Only the pressure of a race will reveal any psychological scars that Epsom might have left on Dawn Approach – if any. If there aren’t any, and the previously unbeaten colt is at his brilliant best, then Magician, who had his own problems over the weekend, and Toronado are up against it.
Class and grit is always a wonderful combination. It would be great to see Dawn Approach prove the doubters wrong. But he’s short odds to do so. And if the Toronado camp has cured the suspected palate problems that affected him in the Guineas, he may provide better betting value.
There’s little doubt Animal Kingdom is the best horse in the Queen Anne. He’s certainly the most accomplished. And if the straight mile and undulating turf course present no more of a problem than American dirt or Middle-Eastern Tapeta, then the first ‘Durby’ winner to race at Royal Ascot in over 70 years should win well.
Normally as a betting proposition there are enough question marks around the American superstar to make him opposable as a short-priced favourite but a race won so devastatingly by Frankel last year appears to have a relatively sub-standard bunch of European milers this time. Declaration Of War was a major disappointment in the Lockinge, Elusive Kate has yet to run this season, and the rest frankly don’t look true Group One standard.
It is 26 years since Bluebird last won the Kings Stand for Ireland, firmly in the days when giant speed-balls from the Far East and Australia weren’t dominating the race. South Africa’s Shea Shea looks to set the benchmark this time and Eddie Lynam’s Sole Power faces a major task.
Stubbs looks the best of Aidan O’Brien’s three for the Coventry and is bred to relish a stiff uphill finish.