“There is good reason for thinking that Dawn Approach
will not be troubled by a mile and a quarter”
It’s that time of the year again, when streams of conjecture from pedigree pundits pondering the stamina limitations of Classic prospects are the order of the day. The debate rages no more furiously anywhere than it does in the United States, primarily as it’s Kentucky Derby time, and since the bulk of American horses are bred for speed, there’s always the question of whether their stamina will stretch the ten furlongs of their most famous race.
Strangely enough, for a country that has an hereditary obsession with these arguments, the British have been uncharacteristically quiet, more likely because most horses in those realms are bred for the Derby trip, and it’s usually their class that makes them effective at anything less than a mile and a half. Indeed, for a country that was once renowned for the lightning elements of the Grey Sovereign, Gold Boss, Golden Cloud, Vilmorin, Abernant and Mummy’s Pet lines, there is a distinct dearth of out-and-out speed in European pedigrees these days. A top sprinter is more likely to be an errant child from a heritage that screams “stamina”, than he is to have been bred for the job, hence the regular decimation by the Australians of the region’s leading exponents of the art of speed in the King’s Stand Stakes (Gr.1) and the Golden Jubilee Sprint (Gr.1) most years at Royal Ascot.
Saturday’s Two Thousand Guineas (Gr.1) hero, Dawn Approach, has woken the gurus from their slumber however, with his imperious 5 length triumph in the 205th running of England’s first Classic, because his pedigree at least suggests there may be a few chinks in his stamina armoury, and hence his appetite for the Derby distance.
Andrew Caulfield who’s been around a long time, and is one of the world’s leading students on the subject, yesterday provided his dissection of Dawn Approach’s prospects of doing so. As usual, he is delightfully insightful. But most of these fellows have a knack of occupying the top of the fence when it comes to putting their reputations on the line, and Andrew’s left us wondering again. So you be the judge!
Jim Bolger’s outstanding record as a trainer has shown time after time that he is not hidebound by convention. If a horse appears to be ready to run, he is happy to run it, even if other trainers would hesitate because of the animal’s bloodlines. This has been highlighted by the records of the five colts which have taken the Dewhurst Stake (Gr.1) for Bolger over the last seven years, as none of them made his debut later than July 16. Parish Hall was out as early as April 10, despite being inbred 3x3 to Sadler’s Wells, and Saturday’s admirable 2000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach started his career even earlier, on March 25. These early starts also allowed Bolger to give his colts the wealth of experience which often proves so valuable in the top events, with all five racing at least five times at two.
I guess that ungenerous observers might say that some of these colts paid the price for their early exploits, as neither Teofilo (Galileo) nor Parish Hall (Teofilo) was able to race at three and Intense Focus (Giant’s Causeway) ran only twice after his busy first season. However, New Approach proved to be a model Thoroughbred and is now a highly exciting sire, with the unbeaten Dawn Approach leading the way.
Of course the excitement about New Approach started last year, when Dawn Approach’s Coventry Stakes (Gr.2) win was part of an unprecedented stakes treble for a first-crop sire at Royal Ascot, the other victories coming via Thair and the short-lived Newfangled.
While these three proved that New Approach is perfectly capable of siring precocious juveniles, I suspect that they may be exceptions to the rule. No other stakes winners emerged from New Approach’s subsequent 2-year-old runners in 2012, but he notched up his fourth stakes winner when the stoutly bred Talent took the Pretty Polly Stakes (L) two days ago.
As with many a winner of the 2000 Guineas, the question now is whether Dawn Approach has the necessary stamina for the Derby. I might as well admit now that I have my doubts, but I am delighted that Dawn Approach’s connections apparently intend to let him take his chance. Bolger has been an advocate of Equinome’s genetic testing system, designed to evaluate a racehorse’s stamina potential. It seems, though, that he is still prepared to go along with the old trial-and-error process which has stood racing in good stead for hundreds of years.
When Brough Scott interviewed Bolger for Racing Post Sunday in March, Scott explained that the system categorizes a horse’s stamina capabilities, from a TT for middle-distance to a CC for sheer speed. “Galileo was a TT, but he had class,” Bolger explained. “The ideal for a Classic horse is CT. New Approach was a CT, while Dawn Approach is a CC. I trained his dam who had talent, although she got injured, but she was by a sprinter, so the Derby distance is unlikely. But as he settles so well, I would not rule it out entirely.”
It is essential to remember that stamina cannot be accurately assessed without taking temperament into account. A hard-puller is never going to stay as far as expected. Equally, a phlegmatic temperament and a willingness to settle can sometimes allow a horse to stay further than anyone might have predicted. One of the most extreme examples that I can recall was Lord Helpus, a horse trained by Barry Hills nearly 40 years ago. This colt was by Green God, a high-class performer who did all his winning over five or six furlongs. Golden Cloud, the broodmare sire of Lord Helpus, was another specialist sprinter and so were Golden Cloud’s sire Gold Bridge and Vilmorin, sire of Lord Helpus’ very speedy second dam, Poplin. Lord Helpus seemed to be fulfilling his destiny when he showed consistently useful form over sprint distances at two. However, an amenable temperament encouraged Hills to move the colt up in distance at three, when Lord Helpus achieved a Timeform rating of 111 in scoring twice over a mile. The 4-year-old Lord Helpus then showed even further progress, when he achieved his finest victory in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes (Gr.3) over a mile and a half.
Of course the stamina had to come from somewhere, the most obvious sources being Green God’s grandsires Nasrullah and Guersant, both of whom just about stayed a mile and a half. Clearly, this latent stamina eventually proved more potent than the fast blood in Lord Helpus’ pedigree. So will the presence of one very fast horse in Dawn Approach’s pedigree, his broodmare sire Phone Trick, be more influential than the fact that his next three dams are daughters of Pleasant Colony, Alydar and Sea-Bird II?
In case you’ve forgotten, Pleasant Colony won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before siring several high-class performers over a mile and a half, including Colonial Affair (Belmont Stakes G1), Denon (Turf Classic G1) and St Jovite (winner of the G1 Irish Derby and King George for Jim Bolger). Alydar was a fine second in each of Affirmed’s Triple Crown wins, running him to a head in the Belmont Stakes. And the majestic Sea-Bird still has strong claims to being the finest mile-and-a-half horse in living memory.
To get back to Phone Trick, fast horses inevitably predominate among the good winners produced by his daughters, good examples being Zensational, Old Topper and Universal Form. Fortunately for Dawn Approach’s admirers, there are exceptions to the rule, the finest being Unbridled’s daughter Exogenous. With a G1 Kentucky Derby and G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner as her sire, Exogenous stayed well enough to triumph in a pair of Grade 1s over a mile and an eighth and she was also runner-up in Grade 1s over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half (appearing not to stay the latter distance). Then there’s Eye of the Tiger, a Grade 2 winner over 1 3/16 miles, and Connected, a Grade 3 scorer over 1 1/8 miles.
Therefore, there is good reason for thinking that Dawn Approach will not be troubled by a mile and a quarter, but only the racecourse test will tell us whether he can also excel over the Derby distance. It is worth pointing out that the late great Vincent O’Brien was of the opinion that a mile and a quarter was the optimum distance for some of his English and Irish Derby winners. Sheer class can help eke out a colt’s stamina, and Dawn Approach certainly has that, so I think the idea of putting him to the test in the Derby is the right one, no matter what the result. Dawn Approach’s dam Hymn of the Dawn cost no more than $18,000 as a weanling. She failed to win in five attempts and her dam Colonial Debut also retired winless after eight starts. Even his third dam Kittihawk Miss, won only once in seven starts. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. The 2000 Guineas hero comes from a female line which has achieved a great deal. Colonial Debut’s best effort was her Tale of the Cat colt Galantas, a smart miler who earned the equivalent of over $300,000. Dawn Approach’s fifth dam is Ole Liz, a winner of six of her 12 juvenile starts back in 1965. As a daughter of Double Jay and Islay Mist, Ole Liz was a sister to Bourbon Mist, and both these sisters proved very influential producers.
The Newstead Farm Dispersal in 1985 provided abundant evidence as to Ole Liz’s talents. Her daughter Kittiwake, now the fourth dam of Dawn Approach, realized $3.8 million at the age of 17. Kittiwake’s daughters Larida and Miss Oceana sold for $4million and $7million, respectively. Dawn Approach’s third dam, Kittihawk Miss, was a sister to Miss Oceana, whose record stood at an impressive 11 wins and 6 seconds from 19 starts. Good enough to win five of her six juvenile starts, Miss Oceana progressed to boost her total of Grade 1 wins to five, including one over a mile and an eighth. She also finished third in the CCA Oaks over a mile and a half. Kittiwake was 21 when she foaled the last of her four stakes winners, the Group 1-winning Nureyev colt Kitwood, who stayed a mile and a quarter in France. Kittiwake is also the second dam of Magic of Life, winner of the G1 Coronation Stakes. Ole Liz is also the third dam of Film Maker, a highclass turf filly who scored at up to a mile and a half.
Dawn Approach isn’t the only proof that this female line is still flourishing; other recent Grade 1 winners being Aruna (a Mr. Greeley filly descending from Kittiwake who scored at up to 1 3/8 miles) and Love Theway Youare (2012 Vanity Handicap). Beaconaire, another of Ole Liz’s daughters, produced the high-class filly Sabin, who collected Grade 1 wins in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes and Gamely Handicap. Bourbon Mist’s daughter Fire Water bred the champion filly Life’s Magic, whose wins included the G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and Bourbon Mist is also the third dam of two very different types in Europe, namely Nuclear Debate, a top sprinter, and the stamina-packed Amilynx, twice a winner of the G1 Prix Royal-Oak.
Extracts from Thoroughbred Daily News