Exciting juveniles hint at better times ahead for New Approach
Martin Stevens says the Darley sire could return to past glories
Three Royal Ascot two-year-old winners including a subsequent champion at that age in Dawn Approach, who went on to land the 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes. As if that weren't enough, there was also an Oaks heroine in Talent and Derby runner-up in Libertarian.
New Approach demonstrated with his first crop that he was able to transmit the two qualities that breeders prize most highly: precocity and Classic ability. This time four years ago he was being hailed as the second coming of his own breed-shaping sire Galileo.
Following the Dalham Hall Stud resident's freshman year in 2012 his fee was more than doubled to £50,000 from £22,500, and after that glittering sophomore season it was hiked to £80,000. He was now, not unjustifiably, in the same price bracket as Europe's most brilliant sources of top-class horses.
But then something strange happened. New Approach's debut crop in the northern hemisphere – which also yielded the 2014 Nassau Stakes heroine Sultanina – proved to be an unreliable indicator of what was to come, with the stallion having endured a much quieter time of it since that glorious start.
Sure, his second-crop sons Elliptique and Potemkin scored at the highest level but, as admirable as they are, they did so at the age of five last year in Germany and Italy respectively. The pair are the sire's only Group 1 winners in the northern hemisphere since Sultanina's Nassau Stakes.
NEW APPROACH GROUP WINNERS BY CROP
(Northern hemisphere only)
2010 8 (Cap O'Rushes, Dawn Approach, Libertarian, Messi, Nearly Caught, Newfangled, Sultanina, Talent)
2011 4 (Ceisteach, Connecticut, Elliptique, Potemkin)
2012 1 (Beautiful Romance)
2013 1 (Herald The Dawn)
2014 1 (Strathspey)
The extraordinary fact is that New Approach's first European-conceived crop – now seven-year-olds – contained more Pattern winners than the following four put together. There were eight among that first intake of progeny, then four in the second crop (now aged six) and just one in each of the third, fourth and fifth crops aged between five and three.
His five highest runners on Racing Post Ratings – Dawn Approach (128), Libertarian (118), Sultanina (116), Talent (115) and Nearly Caught (115) – are all seven-year-olds.
This was like getting double sixes with the first ten rolls of the dice, but failing to do so on the next 90 throws: a sequence mathematically as probable as any other, but hard to believe nevertheless.
Darley recognised the odd trajectory of New Approach's progeny results by halving his fee this year to £30,000. In 2016 it had been snipped to £60,000 from £80,000, which the Derby hero had commanded for two seasons in the afterglow of his early success.
But there have been some glimmers of hope in recent weeks that New Approach is turning the tide.
Strathspey became the first Group winner among his three-year-old crop in the Prix de Malleret, while Nearly Caught proved his durability by scoring in the Listed Coral Marathon. Dancing Breeze, Glamorous Approach, Mount Logan and Wild Approach have also achieved podium finishes in stakes company since the turn of July.
More importantly, there have been encouraging signs that New Approach is making hay with the better mares he received in 2014, his first season at £80,000 after Dawn Approach and Talent had won Classics.
Three winners have so far emerged from the resultant crop of two-year-olds and the trio – all bred and raced by Godolphin or Rabbah Bloodstock – look above average.
Masar was the first to have the wraps taken off him, overcoming trouble in running to score a shade cosily on debut at Goodwood in May. He confirmed his promise by finishing a fine third to September in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The Charlie Appleby-trained colt has an intriguing pedigree, as the second foal out of the Cape Cross mare Khawlah, winner of both the UAE Oaks and Derby. New Approach and Cape Cross are both out of mares by Ahonoora, so he is inbred 3x4 to the late Coolmore stallion.
Furthermore, Khawlah's granddam, the Oaks third Melikah, is a half-sister to Galileo, so Masar is also inbred 3x4 to legendary blue hen Urban Sea.
New Approach's second juvenile winner of the campaign arrived last Thursday when the James Tate-trained colt Hey Gaman broke his duck at Yarmouth on his third start, having finished ninth behind Masar in the Chesham.
Hey Gaman is out of the Group 3-placed Dubawi mare Arsaadi, twice placed at Royal Ascot in the Sandringham Handicap and Royal Hunt Cup.
Incidentally, Arsaadi is out of the Cape Cross mare Arsad, who was inbred 3x3 to Ahonoora. So with that extra dose of Ahonoora from New Approach, Hey Gaman is inbred 3x5x5 to the stallion.
But arguably New Approach's most exciting two-year-old is Cascadian, the Andre Fabre-trained colt who overcame a slow start to win a newcomers' race at Chantilly by four and a half lengths on Sunday.
Cascadian is, like Masar, out of a UAE Oaks winner – in his case, Falls Of Lora, a daughter of Street Cry who also won the Listed Coral Distaff.
The pedigrees of the unraced juveniles by New Approach this year confirm the high esteem in which he was held by the Maktoum family and outside breeders in the 2014 breeding season.
They include named progeny of Group 1-winning dams Baila Me (Bancroft, a colt); Blue Bunting (Flag Festival, a colt); Eva's Request (Imperial Choice, a filly); Favourable Terms (Bow Street, a colt); Lady Marian (Loxley, a colt); Lyric Of Light (Pop Song, a filly); Maids Causeway (Isle Of Dogs, a gelding); Music Show (New Show, a colt); Nahrain (Ta Allak, a colt); Plumania (Maniac, a colt); Sajjhaa (Allieyf, a colt) and Saoirse Abu (Active Approach, a filly).
There are also many two-year-old half-siblings to notable runners to look forward to, including Hareeq, a half-brother to Fallen For You; Military Band, a half-brother to Cracksman, Photographer, a half-brother to Coronet; Rule Of Honour, a half-brother to Spinning Queen; and Waldlied, a three-parts sister to Waldgeist.
The stage looks set, then, for an improved show from New Approach with his young runners this year and next. He might not be the Group 1 winner-producing machine his flying start at stud suggested he might be, but there is nothing to stop him establishing himself as a solid source of high-class horses.
Darley may have had to drop his fee to £30,000 to pull in the punters but that might look a bargain if commercial breeders who availed themselves of the opportunity are able to capitalise on the efforts of the sire's more expensively bred runners.
And does it not say something about the mania for new blood in the stallion market that New Approach was available this year – when it was known he is able to supply Royal Ascot two-year-olds and Classic performers, even if he has endured a quieter time of it of late – at the same price as in his first year at Dalham Hall, when breeders had no idea whether he might be an unmitigated disaster?