02/01/2008 1:00AM

High hopes for Europe's top pair


NEW YORK - New Approach vs. Thewayyouare.

That's what the European 3-year-old season could boil down to in 2008. The two most exciting juveniles in Europe are both being considered for the Epsom Derby on June 7, and though the Blue Riband of the Turf is still four months away, the two colts possess the track record and the breeding to master Epsom's supremely difficult 12 furlongs. A lot could happen between now and then, but horses with both top-class juvenile form and world-class pedigrees generally stand a better chance in the classics than those with a dodgy pedigree or indifferent 2-year-old form.

Neither New Approach nor Thewayyouare is trained in England, necessitating different roads to a possible meeting at Epsom. New Approach will go straight to the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 4, while Thewayyouare is earmarked for the Poule d'Essai des Poulins, or French 2000 Guineas, on May 12. The Jim Bolger-trained New Approach was named European juvenile champion last month as the highweight 2-year-old on the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings. Trained by Andre Fabre, Thewayyouare was the top rated 2-year-old colt in France.

Bolger, who trains in County Carlow, 50 miles southwest of Dublin and just north of Gowran Park Racecourse, hardly used a new approach in mapping out his colt's 2-year-old campaign. In fact, it was a carbon copy of that traveled by Teofilo, his 2006 2-year-old champion who spent last winter as the antepost favorite for both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby but failed to make it back to the races at 3 due to knee problems. New Approach began his racing career with victory in a Curragh maiden race on Irish Oaks Day in the very same race Teofilo had won a year earlier. He then matched his precursor's victories in the Tyros, Futurity, National, and, finally, the Dewhurst Stakes, in which he defeated Group 3 Acomb Stakes winner Fast Company, Group 3 Solario Stakes winner Raven's Pass, Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Rio de la Plata, Group 2 Champagne Stakes winner McCartney, and Group 1 Middle Park Stakes winner Dark Angel. The Dewhurst was the best 2-year-old race in the world in 2007 and established New Approach as the antepost favorite for this year's Guineas and Epsom Derby.

Bolger is keeping his fingers crossed that New Approach, who never does more than what is necessary to win, will avoid Teofilo's injury bug. As evidenced by his front-running scores in the Tyros, Futurity, and the National, he has the speed to win a Guineas, although his pedigree suggests that he will be better at distances longer than a mile.

For New Approach, like Teofilo, is by Galileo, the winner of three Group 1 races at 1 1/2 miles - the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes - and the sire of Breeders' Cup Turf winner Red Rocks and Irish Derby winner Soldier of Fortune. Moreover, he is out of Park Express, whom Bolger trained to win the 1 1/4-mile Irish Champion Stakes in 1986. Further evidence that New Approach has the speed to win the Guineas can be found in his Green Forest half-brother Shinko Forest, who was a Grade 1 winner going six furlongs in Japan.

Thewayyouare didn't accomplish quite as much on the racecourse at 2 as did New Approach, but he may possess even greater room for improvement. Based in Chantilly with perennial French champion trainer Andre Fabre, Thewayyouare overcame defeat in his first outing - when he was not fully wound up - to reel off four straight victories, improving to take the listed Criterium de Lyon, the Group 3 Prix Thomas Bryon, and the Group 1 Criterium International, a race won in recent years by future Arc winners Dalakhani and Bago.

Fabre has hinted that he may give Thewayyouare a prep for Longchamp's French 2000 Guineas before heading for Epsom, although staying in Chantilly for the 1 5/16-mile Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) on June 6 is an option, as Fabre has warned that "the Epsom Derby is not my race," a reference to his 0-for-lifetime record in the famed classic.

By champion miler Kingmambo, sire of Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, Japanese Derby winner King Kamehameha, Japan Cup winner and Arc runner-up El Condor Pasa, and French Oaks winner Divine Proportions, Thewayyouare is a half-brother to the Danehill filly Peeping Fawn, winner of four Group 1 races as a 3-year-old, two at 1 1/2 miles and two at 1 1/4 miles. Moreover, his Sadler's Wells dam Maryinsky is a half- sister to the dam of Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags to Riches, so there is every reason to believe that Thewayyouare will stay 12 furlongs.

Should New Approach and Thewayyouare meet at Epsom, or later in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, it will be a battle between the world's two most powerful stables, although that may not be apparent at first glance. New Approach raced in the colors of Bolger's wife, Jackie, as a 2-year-old but was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed after his Dewhurst triumph. The horse remains with Bolger but will run in the colors of Sheikh Mohammed's wife, Princess Haya of Jordan. Thewayyouare ran at 2 for Irish property developer Sean Mulryan, but Coolmore has since bought an interest in the colt, who will continue to run in Mulryan's colors. Thus the irony of an Irish-trained colt, New Approach, running for the Maktoums, while his French-trained rival, Thewayyouare, runs for Coolmore & Co., yet another case of Sheikh Mohammed butting heads with John Magnier.