10/15/2008 11:00PM

New Approach has hands full

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Russian Cross can upset New Approach’s plans for a Champion Stakes double on Saturday when the Andre Fabre-trained 3-year-old attempts to become the third straight French invader to win Newmarket’s showcase 1 1/4-mile Group 1 event.

New Approach had to struggle last time when winning the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown by a mere half-length over the 50-1 Traffic Guard, who tries him again in a $780,000 Champion Stakes that will be run over Newmarket’s straight 10-furlong course. The Jim Bolger-trained New Approach has four Group 1 victories to his credit, among them the Epsom Derby, and while 1 1/4 miles is arguably his best distance, he could be vulnerable to the late-blossoming Russian Cross.

By Cape Cross, Russian Cross graduated from a 10-length Chantilly allowance score on July 28 to win Deauville’s Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano, both of those races run at the Champion Stakes distance. Last time he was beaten a neck by Never on Sunday in the Group 3 Prix du Prince d’Orange at Longchamp. If he can be forgiven that blip, his 4-1 antepost price looks like the best value in a race won last year by the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Literato (by a head from this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf hopeful Eagle Mountain), and in 2006 by the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained mare Pride.

Olivier Peslier will ride Russian Cross for the first time while Kevin Manning takes his usual place aboard New Approach, who is as low as 6-5 with British bookies.

Pipedreamer has twice chased home Duke of Marmalade in Group 1 races this year and has also landed the Group 2 York Stakes. His John Gosden-trained stablemate Twice Over took the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam two back but finished eight lengths behind Russian Cross in the Guillaume d’Ornano. Linngari is an overlay for Michael Stoute at 12-1 off a victory in the Group 1 Bayerisches Zuchtrennen and a good second to Pressing in the Group 2 Topkapi Trophy in Istanbul last time.

The $520,000 Dewhurst Stakes was won by the last two European juvenile champions in New Approach last year and Teofilo in 2006. This time around, Rip Van Winkle rates a warm favorite despite not having run since July 24 when winning the Group 3 Tyros Stakes at the Dewhurst’s seven-furlong distance. Aidan O’Brien has warned that “Rip” has had a checkered preparation for the Dwewhurst as he was gotten ready for the Futurity Stakes and the National Stakes at the Curragh but didn’t run in either. He was also considered for Polytrack races at Great Leighs and Dundalk as possible preps for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but has been re-routed to Newmarket instead.

Soul City, trained by Richard Hannon to win the Group 3 Prix La Rochette and the $2.2 million Goffs Million, is a colt who always produces what is required and may be good enough to win in this exalted company. Equally dangerous is Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes winner Shaweel, a Dansili colt who ran Mastercraftsman to a short head last time in the Group 1 National Stakes. Intense Focus was third two weeks ago to the Freddy Head-trained Naaqoos in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, while Lord Shanakill steps up off a score in Newbury's Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes.

The seven-race Champions Day card worth $2.2 million also features a new race named for the 2006 Champion Stakes winner. The 1 1/4-mile, Group 2 Pride Stakes for fillies and mares features an intriguing clash between Unsung Heroine, runner-up in the St. Leger to Breeders’ Cup Turf candidate Conduit, and Dar Re Mi, who has finished second behind Zarkava and Lush Lashes in Group 1 races this year.