Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
Dawn Approach bounced back from a disappointing defeat at Epsom with a display of determination, digging deep to repel the sustained charge of old rival Toronado in the St James's Palace Stakes.
Seemingly unlikely to be entered in the event after the Derby, Jim Bolger took the late decision to enter his star three year old son at Royal Ascot after pleasing his trainer in work on the lead up the the declarations stage for the event.
Unlike the emphatic display that Dawn Approach readily propelled towards his onlookers as a visionary delight, this was a display of sheer grit to repel the challenge of a horse whom Richard Hughes and Hannon hold in the highest regards. The greatest horse Hughes has ever ridden was back to his best in this Group 1 contest but his best was marginally insufficient when matched up against the incomparable brilliance of Kevin Manning.
Manning has done little wrong since Dawn Approach made his debut, he has looked after the three year old son of New Approach when it was needed and has allowed him to display his superior abilities when it is an option. Today Dawn Approach and Manning formed the perfect team once more with the colt responding to every ounce of Manning's urges in the battle towards a line. With another jockey on board, the result may not have been the same.
Richard Hannon and his team were notably disappointment and somewhat surprised by the lacklustre performance of Toronado at Newmarket. Whilst a clear reason for the performance is still yet to be detailed, this was the Toronado of old, the Toronado that the stable had full belief in and he was throwing down his finest effort in a bid to dethrone Dawn Approach.
"Richard [Hughes] was fighting me all the way but I was always holding on," said winning jockey, Kevin Manning. "He's a real battler. He took a bit of a bite again and was a little bit keen with me but he's done that well."
"I took great confidence from my staff. They were very keen to get him back and put him back into the fray," said Jim Bolger. "After a short period of time off he was put back on the hacking rota and I started to feel I might be able to get him back for Royal Ascot."
"I text Simon Crisford [Godolphin Racing Manager] and said "be prepared for a shock" and then called him the next day and said that I felt Dawn Approach would be ready for Royal Ascot. He checked with Sheikh Mohammed and it wasn't too long before we decided to go. I think Sheikh Mohammed was just as anxious as I was to get him back."
Asked on the future targets of Dawn Approach, Bolger responded, "We'll play it by ear and at some stage take some more risks I'm sure."
A stewards inquiry into the stretch run of the St James's Palace Stakes found that Dawn Approach had not directly been the cause for the interrupted run of Toronado and the placings therefore remained unaltered, but Richard Hughes was clear in his opinion after the race that he believed he would've won without the interference.
"I'd have won - I deliberately went round the outside so I didn't get a bump," said Hughes of the interference experienced with two furlongs to go as Glory Awaits edged out to cause a domino effect on the runners to his outside.
"He [Dawn Approach] was lucky to survive that," said Bolger. "He's very tough and hardy. I'm very happy, relief plays a part in it but I knew he wouldn't let me down today."