06/05/2008 12:00AM

New Approach crashes the party at Epsom


Jim Bolger upset a great many people when he announced on Monday that New Approach would run in Saturday’s Epsom Derby.

The Irish trainer had been saying all spring that New Approach, last year’s champion 2-year-old, would contest the English and Irish 2000 Guineas followed by the Irish Derby. Epsom would not suit the son of Galileo, he said.

At the last moment, Bolger did an about-face, saying that it was entirely his decision and that he had not been under pressure from connections of the colt, who is owned by Princess Haya, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum.

Bookmakers complained that Bolger had treated the public “with total contempt.” Backers scrambled to adjust.

Adding to the ire, competing trainers and the racing authorities are none too happy with Bolger’s recent practice of ponying one or two of his best horses to the gate. New Approach delayed the start of the English 2000 by six minutes as he made a slow progress down the course in the company of the 4-year-old maiden Metamorphosis.

Any repeat will draw even more criticism and a fine, but that will not worry Bolger. New Approach is now competing for favoritism at around 4-1 with another Irish colt, Casual Conquest.

New Approach was beaten by Henrythenavigator in both Guineas, but it was quite clear that he needs farther than a mile, and this should be his big day.

Aidan O’Brien took Henrythenavigator out of the Derby but still fields five of the 17 runners – down from the eight he ran last year. Johnnie Murtagh tried all five at work last week and picked King of Rome, who is as high as 16-1.

Murtagh rode another of the quintet, Alessandro Volta, when he beat King of Rome by three-quarters of a length in the Group 3 Lingfield Derby Trial on May 10.

Casual Conquest, trained by Dermot Weld, won his only race at 2 and beat the O’Brien-trained Derby outsider Washington Irving by six lengths in the Group 2 Derby Trial at Leopardstown on May 11.

Trying to keep the classic at home for the English, Michael Stoute fields three representatives. Tartan Bearer beat the O’Brien-trained Frozen Fire by a head in the Group 2 Dante at York on May 15. Doctor Fremantle won the Group 3 Chester Vase and Tajaweed took the Group 3 Dee Stakes last month.

Curtain Call is the shortest-priced English runner. He began his career in Ireland, where he won a Group 3 in September, but moved to Luca Cumani in the winter.

Cumani won the Derby in 1988 with Kahyasi and 1998 with High-Rise, but Curtain Call is an unknown quantity. He beat just two rivals in his only race this year and missed his intended run in the Lingfield Trial because the ground was too firm. Backers have retained confidence, though.

There was heavy rain throughout southern England on Monday and Tuesday, and the going should not be a problem for Curtain Call or any other runner today.