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Europe's 2-year-old champ wins Epsom Derby

6/7/2008
AP Photo/Tom Hevezi

New Approach, the 2007 European champion 2-year-old who for much of the last two months had been ruled out of the Epsom Derby by his Irish trainer, Jim Bolger, justified a late change of mind and won the $2.6 million event at Epsom on Saturday.

It was a first success in Britain's premier race for Bolger, 66, who on numerous occasions stated his intention to skip Epsom with New Approach and instead aim the son of Galileo at the Irish Derby.

Indeed, as recently as May 25 Bolger affirmed that New Approach, who had finished second in the English 2,000 Guineas and its Irish counterpart, was left in the Derby at the penultimate entry stage "by mistake."

Sent off as 5-1 second favorite, having been backed at 209-1 six days earlier when still considered a non-runner, New Approach pulled hard in the early stages of this 1 1/2-mile contest and still had most of his 15 rivals in front of him at the top of the hill beginning the turn into Epsom's long home stretch. Jockey Kevin Manning, who is Bolger's son-in-law, initially tried for a run down the outside. But he was forced to change his tactics and dived down to the inside rail passing the two furlong pole -- a move that cost him a four-day riding ban.

At this stage, Tartan Bearer, who had come from even farther back than New Approach, was about to hit the front, having produced what looked like a winning move down the outside. But the temperamental New Approach, who has broken with European tradition by being poneyed down to the start for each of his last four races, found previously undiscovered reserves of ability and guts to forge past his rival and win by a half-length. The winning time was 2:36.50.

Tartan Bearer finished second, with favored Casual Conquest third, 4 1/2 lengths in back of the winner.

Bolger hailed Manning's ride as "the best I have ever seen," although the jockey received a four-day riding ban for taking New Approach suddenly to the rail.

Referring to the confusion and controversy surrounding New Approach's participation in the race, Bolger confirmed he left the colt in the entries by mistake and added: "I am just extremely lucky and thankful that I did. It is the biggest mistake I have made in a long time. It was fortuitous that it worked out for the best."

Manning, celebrating the biggest win of his career, said: "New Approach has got a serious, serious engine. He has always been crying out for this trip. He took a bit of a tug early on and got further back than I would have liked, but coming down the hill I had loads of horse and just hoped the gaps would come."

The first two are likely to meet again in the Irish Derby on June 29.