NEW Approach laid down a strong claim for top honours in the juvenile division, and emerged as a live contender for next year’s classics, with a commanding victory in the Galileo EBF Futurity Stakes at the Curragh.

Last year Jim Bolger captured this Group 2 event with the outstanding Teofilo. After winning the same two races as that horse coming into this race, New Approach was sent off the 8/11 favourite to account for the Coventry Stakes winner, Henrythenavigator. This he managed in fine style, drawing comparisons from his trainer with one of the greats of the modern era.

Just five runners went to post for the seven-furlong contest and, in the early stages, New Approach and Kevin Manning helped to set a searching early pace with Warsaw. The pair raced well in advance of Henrythenavigator, who had to be shaken up at halfway to start making up ground. No sooner had the Royal Ascot winner threated to move on terms than New Approach pulled away again inside the distance.

At the line he had three lengths to spare over the staying-on Curtain Call who grabbed second place in the final yards. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this display was New Approach’s ability to maintain a strong gallop off what was a searching early tempo on soft ground.

“We haven’t decided yet whether he will go for the National Stakes next, or the Parknasilla Hotel Goffs Million,” said Bolger. “He’s a very strong horse and he’d be just as good on good ground.”

When asked to compare New Approach to last year’s winner, the Coolcullen trainer remarked: “Teofilo was a champion European two-year-old, and a very proper horse with middle-distances written all over him, as well as showing terrific speed.

“This fellow will be more the European version of Secretariat. He’s a chesnut with white legs, and a similar style of racing. I think he will stay middle-distances; his dam [Park Express] won the Irish Champion Stakes.”

[New Approach ended up as the champion two-year-old in Europe as he added the Group 1 National Stakes and Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, going into winter quarters unbeaten in five starts.

He was European champion again at three and, having been runner-up in the 2000 Guineas and Irish 2000 Guineas, to Henrythenavigator on both occasions, he won the Derby, Irish Champion Stakes and the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.

He retired to Dalham Hall Stud at a fee of £30,000, stood for an historic high for a couple of seasons at £80,000, and has stood privately for the last two years.

New Approach is the sire of 37 group winners, another 22 stakes winners, and his Group 1 winners are Dawn Approach (2000 Guineas, St James’s Palace Stakes, Dewhurst Stakes), Cascadian (All Aged Stakes, Doncaster Mile Handicap), Mac Swiney (Irish 2000 Guineas, Vertem Futurity), Masar (Derby), Potemkin (Premio Roma), Elliptique (Grosser Dallmayr Bayerisches Zuchtrennen), Sultanina (Nassau Stakes), May’s Dream (Australasian Oaks) and Talent (Oaks)]

One-two Celebration


IT had been a very good week for Jamie Spencer, and a perfect conclusion seemed on the cards when he moved hot favourite Cesare into a challenging position in last Saturday’s Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood.

However, Sir Michael Stoute’s mare Echelon, also carrying the Cheveley Park Stud colours, kept on strongly after leading a furlong out, and was still just over a length in front at the line.

By Danehill, Echelon has a fine winning record, but was allowed to start at 7/1 after two unplaced efforts behind Nannina at Royal Ascot and the brilliant Peeping Fawn at the Curragh. She probably found 10 furlongs in testing ground too far for her on the latter occasion.

Right back to her best. Echelon responded to a perfectly-judged ride by Ryan Moore, taking full advantage of the six-pound weight concession from Cesare. The latter probably ran to his mark, though it was disappointing for those who supported him at 11/10 that he failed to capitalise on his good efforts at Group 1 level.

Stoute’s record with older horses speaks for itself, and he has now won the Celebration Mile six times, including with Echelon’s half-sister Chic. Also owned by Cheveley Park Stud, she scored in 2004 and 2005. A tilt at a Group 1, possibly the Sun Chariot Stakes, looks to be on the cards for Echelon.

[Echelon made two more starts, but didn’t run in the Sun Chariot Stakes. She did gain her Group 1 success though, beating Red Evie in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.

Chic never won at Group 1 level and only had one foal who did not race, Echelon, on the other hand, is the dam of six winners and two placed horses with her first eight foals. Her second produce was Integral (Dalakhani), and that mare’s six wins were headed by a pair of Group 1 successes, in the Falmouth Stakes and the Sun Chariot Stakes.

Echelon is still at Cheveley Park Stakes and this year had a filly foal by Ulysses]

Graham exits Irish racing sponsorship


LEADING Belfast bookmaker, Sean Graham, has ceased his substantial sponsorship of Irish racing.

He assured me that “the money is still available”, and he is willing to spend it in any way “to encourage people to go racing”. He added: “Bringing people through the turnstiles at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”

This is a crippling blow for Irish racing at a time when prize-money is stagnant, against an inflation rate of over 20% per annum. In the last 12 years Graham has put £1 million into racing here and in England, peaking at £100,000 in 1981. In the current year the figure will be £75,000, as the Sean Graham Havasnack Plate at Tralee on Thursday will be the final race he supports.

He has written to all racecourses that staged races sponsored by him, telling them of his decision, but also stating that he would be happy to listen to any suggestions that would bring the crowds back in.

One of the worst hit will be the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. Last year he put up over £15,000 for seven races. He has become somewhat disillusioned with the Foxrock track, and says it is just not doing business.

“At the last meeting,” he added, “you could have shot a machine gun around the place and not hit anyone. What is needed is marketing. Look at Tralee this week. There are bands and floats and the people flocked in.”

He feels that there has to be some kind of pool betting, where punters would win a large sum for a small outlay, and he would be quite prepared to do something on these lines.

[Sean Patrick Graham, was born on April 14th, 1936. Educated at St Mary’s CBS in Belfast, on leaving school he started to work for his father, who owned two betting shops in Belfast. By the early 1960s Graham had expanded his father’s shops on a remarkable scale, and by the late 1970s he had over 30 shops in Northern Ireland.

In 1968 he opened a shop at Eden Quay in Dublin, and when the Kilmartin chain went out of business Graham bought many of its shops, giving him 10 southern outlets by the mid-1970s. His shops did a lot to revive ante-post betting. Graham was also equally famous as an on-course bookmaker, and had a reputation as a fearless layer of bets.

His sponsorship embraced most of the racecourses of Ireland, being particularly prominent at Down Royal and Downpatrick, and he also sponsored in England, mainly at Cheltenham and Aintree. One notable publicity coup was his decision to sponsor most of the races run on the first Sunday to hold racing in Ireland (July 1985).

He died in Belfast on April 6th, 1986, just days short of his 50th birthday. Two sons, Brian and Sean, continued to run the Sean Graham business after his death]