A new dawn, a new day and and the start on a long road to recovery for Godolphin as Dawn Approach remained undefeated by becoming the scintillating five length victor of the 2013 QIPCO 2,000 Guineas.
A race billed as the match up between two undefeated stars, the battle between England and Ireland, Dawn Approach and Toronado came into this year's renewal of the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas with their reputations on the line and undefeated records to defend.
In the blue corner, the pride of Ireland, the winner of the first two year old race in Europe last season, Dawn Approach. A winner of six races as a two year old, Dawn Approach had stacked black type upon black type in his victories last season culminating with victory in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, when beating subsequent Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf victor, George Vancouver. However, despite the previous successes in a season of exceptionality, he was yet to be seen on a racecourse in his Classic season. Dawn Approach was looking to go one better than his sire, New Approach, who narrowly failed at the hands of Henrythenavigator in this contest in 2009.
In the red corner, a colt whom Richard Hughes had been exceptionally open in announcing as the best horse he had ever ridden, a bold comment from the jockey of Canford Cliffs. Toronado had registered a facile success in the main trial for the 2,000 Guineas, the Group 3 Craven Stakes, and came into this race, for many, as the one to beat. A colt who had impressed as a two year old when urged to deliver his challenge against all manner of foes. A winner of the Craven Stakes on the bridle and un-urged, many believed that there was a substantial performance harboured in Toronado's armoury when asked to deliver his challenge like in so many of his two year old victories.
As the fifteen runners burst out of the stalls in the 2013 renewal of the 2,000 Guineas, Toronado was reserved, angling behind the scorching front end pace set by Jim Bolger's Leitir Mor as Dawn Approach and Kevin Manning tracked his every move. As the runners edged towards the middle of the race, manouvering over every contour of the historic Rowley Mile, the match race that many had anticipated seemed to be about to develop.
Inside the final two furlongs, Toronado went past the pacemaker, briefly edging into the lead under Richard Hughes, but the imposing sight of Dawn Approach loomed boldly under Kevin Manning right behind in his slipstream. As Hughes began to urge Toronado, begging him to win the Classic that he had longed for, the question as to whether Dawn Approach would handle the contours of the Newmarket Rowley Mile had been answered at the most perfect moment of all.
As Dawn Approach ranged alongside his British-based rival, long gone were the beliefs that Dawn Approach would struggle to handle the dip inside the final stages, a concern which seemingly had foundation after the colt became unbalanced during his previous outing at the course, as the three year old son of New Approach looked Toronado in the eye and bounded clear with a sense of disgust that any rival would even consider throwing down the gauntlet to this vision of Irish perfection. As Dawn Approach took things up at the head of affairs with one furlong to go, he began to power clear in the manner of a horse that laughed in the face of competition, and in the manner of a horse that knew bigger and better days may yet come. For Dawn Approach, no horse seemed worthy enough to challenge his perfect record, least of all in the Classic which he felt he had earned to right to own.
With victory in the 2,000 Guineas assured, the sights of many were firmly fixed upon the possibility of Dawn Approach emulating his sire in the next British Classic, the Epsom Derby. A race which re-announced the exceptional abilities of New Approach after defeat in Guineas races on both sides of the Irish sea, there is minor concern of Dawn Approach's ability to see out the mile-and-a-half distance fully and in his normal imposing manner. However, the decision has been made that Dawn Approach will now head to Epsom and bid to provide New Approach with his second Classic victory in his first Classic-season crop.
"I'd be very happy to go [to the Epsom Derby]. We'll have to see how he comes out of this but I'm sure he'll come out of it well." said Bolger, trainer of Dawn Approach, "As you people would say, 'I'm blown away', It doesn't matter who owns or trains the horse I was very impressed with him. I was just hoping that he would run up to his very best form and I said that if he ran up to his very best form I'd was going to be happy even if something went by him. I was fairly sure if he ran up to his best form he'd win the race."
Kevin Manning was winning the English 2,000 Guineas for the first time having been narrowly defeated in the 2008 running aboard New Approach. Manning was notably complimentary about Dawn Approach when asked to compare the two with a view to running in the Epsom Derby in June.
"He just travelled so well throughout the whole race and when I ranged upsides Toronado it felt as though we were about to settle down to a battle, but as soon as he quickened it was all over." said Manning, "He [New Approach - sire] was a fantastic racehorse but just wasn't as straightforward as this guy. He was a little bit keen, but this guy is so laid back, so relaxed it's unbelievable."
"Jim [Bolger] was very happy that he'd had a straight run with him, no hold ups in his work, and Jim was very confident he had him where he wanted him. I don't think anybody is likely to know whether he'll get a mile and a half until we go there [Epsom] but I think if any horse were to get a mile and a half he's got the temperament for it. Until we go a mile and a half I don't think we'll really know but we'll save that for another day."
Victory by Dawn Approach was a welcome relief for Sheikh Mohammed and his Godolphin operation after a fortnight of unfathomable occurances resulting in the operation being rocked by an authority-harming drugs scandal at the Mahmood Al Zarooni yard. For Sheikh Mohammed and Simon Crisford, it would be the first time that they would be seen on a racetrack since the announcement of the positive drugs tests and one which would produce an exceptional level of questions and intrigue from the numbers of journalists on site.
For Sheikh Mohammed and Crisford, the answers to the questions regarding the investigations were clear - there were no answers to be given at this time. Asked by mainstream media as to whether he was happy with the continued investigation into the drugs scandal, Sheikh Mohammed shunned the questions, walking away from the Channel 4 cameras which were interviewing him for a live broadcast. Crisford, whom is normally at the forefront of the questions and answers sessions amongst the journalists, was reserved, clear that he would not be answering any questions on the investigations and would only discuss the race.
However, Jim Bolger was clear in his view regarding the scandal, concisely stating that he did not believe that Sheikh Mohammed could be held fully responsible for the recent concerns over the operations within part of his Godolphin business.
"Sheikh Mohammed has been very good to me, to my stable and to the yard, I was hoping that we could deliver for him." said Bolger, "I don't think Sheikh Mohammed has as much to be concerned about as some people would think. Nobody can be responsible for what somebody else does. In the corporate world, the chairman isn't always responsible for the MD and I think it's the same in a racing stable."
"I'm not surprised about it [the publicity regarding the Al Zarooni investigation] but equally I don't think that the person at the top can be responsible for everything. I wouldn't like to hold myself responsible for everything that happens at my yard even though it beholds the holder of the licence to concern themselves with everything that happens with the yard but we can take all that responsibility on the wrong shoulders."
Lightning often doesn't strike the same point twice, but on Saturday June 1st, the sight of Dawn Approach, trained buy Jim Bolger and ridden by Kevin Manning, powering to victory up the Epsom Downs camber is now a very real probability.