Dawn Approach looks certain to revert to shorter distances after the pressure got the better of the 5-4 favourite and he finished last of 12 runners to 7-1 shot Ruler Of The World in the Investec Derby.
The Epsom Classic went to trainer Aidan O’Brien for the fourth time, and jockey Ryan Moore for the second, but the biggest story of a dramatic race was the failure of the impressive 2,000 Guineas winner. Dawn Approach’s jockey Kevin Manning said: “He was relaxed going down and there was no indication of what he was going to do. We broke and then, after 100 yards he started, it got competitive, as it does, he just lit up and basically bolted with me. I was a passenger and he took me completely by surprise. He got a bump but when I say a bump it just got tight, normal racing, and for whatever reason he just lit up and it was all over.
“I tried to get cover, that wasn’t working so we went to the front but the damage was done by that stage. It has shocked me because he’s never shown me those signs at home.”
Trainer Jim Bolger confirmed this, and said: “I doubt he’ll be running over a mile and a half again.” But, having slept on the defeat, Bolger said yesterday that he will take his time with Dawn Approach before formulating a plan.
The writing had been on the wall for the son of Bolger’s Derby hero New Approach from some way out, as he took a fierce hold under Manning from an early stage. As the runners went along at a sedate pace, and with his mount refusing to settle, Manning had little choice but to let Dawn Approach stride on and he was a spent force not long after Tattenham Corner.
Speaking at Chantilly, where he saddled Loch Garman in the Prix du Jockey Club, Bolger said: “He got a bang leaving the stalls and I think that set him alight, and, with the slow pace then, Kevin wasn’t able to get him settled. The race was set up for him to win it, had he settled. It didn’t happen. We’ve got to get him home and see how he is, so it will be a couple of weeks [before we see what happens].”
While Ruler Of The World (7-1) had looked like at least O’Brien and his Coolmore breeders’ second string on only his third start, he came in for solid support in the betting and the positive ride from Moore helped him home a length and a half in front of the main British challenger, Libertarian.
Ruler Of The World’s stablemate, Battle Of Marengo, led when the last of Dawn Approach’s energy ebbed away at the three-pole and Moore made the decisive move inside the last couple of furlongs and was by now too far ahead of Libertarian, who had been trapped at the rear.
“I suppose the two we thought had the best chances were Battle Of Marengo and Ruler Of The World,” said O’Brien. “We always thought the world of Mars and the other horses but those two were at the top of the pecking order. All the jockeys had their own plan and all the horses were doing their own thing and that is just the way it ended up. This horse was impressive in the Chester Vase and won like a very good horse.”
O’Brien was reluctant to confirm Ruler Of The World for anything in the future, but said: “We’d love to go back to the Curragh [Irish Derby] but he’s still only a baby. We’ll talk it over with everyone.”
Supplementing Libertarian for the Dubai Duty Irish Derby at the Curragh is a “strong possibility” according to connections following his fantastic run. The son of New Approach did not make his racecourse debut until striking at Pontefract in early April, but has come a long way in a short space of time. After a fair run at Sandown, the three-year-old ran out a shock winner of the Dante Stakes at York, but proved that to be no fluke when beating all bar Ruler Of The World.
Karl Burke, assistant to his trainer wife Elaine, is keen on another crack at the winner in Ireland on 29 June.
“I’m absolutely delighted with how he has come out of the race. He’s eaten up and trotted out this morning. He’s in better shape than I could have ever hoped,” said Burke. “He lost 11 kilos, which is to be expected after the journey and everything. When you finish as fast as he did, immediately after the race you think you’ve been unlucky, but we went back and watched the replay and the winner has quickened up really smartly three furlongs out and we weren’t able to.
“You can blame the track and whatever else but, on the day, we were beaten fair and square. That’s not to say on another day things could be different and we certainly wouldn’t be scared to take him on again.”