Click above to watch Camelot winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby…
(Image : Guardian - Footage : RTE Two)
“HEAVY WEIGHT, HEAVY WEATHER”
European racing is in luck at the moment. To have one star of the class of Frankel is a decades-long dream, and to feature an unbeaten Southern Hemisphere champion like Black Caviar in the same season, is the icing on the cake. So what would you call it if you had another “superman” in your midst like Camelot, who remained unbeaten on the weekend when he came home by 2 lengths in the Irish Derby (Gr.1)? His trainer, Aidan O’Brien, was in two minds as to whether to run him in the rain-sodden ground, which left The Curragh as something of a bog, given the horse’s gliding action and the fact he likes it on “top”. Worries about The Curragh’s testing ground aside, the superiority of Camelot was unquestionable prior to yesterday’s Gr.1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, and the brilliant colt overcame the conditions to maintain his perfect sequence.
Sent off as the 1-5 favorite, the Gr.1 2000 Guineas and Investec Derby hero travelled like those odds suggested he would for much of the contest, but, when committed at the quarter pole, instantly had Born To Sea to contend with. Shaking him off soon after as the whip was applied, the bay stretched away to a two-length success. In doing so, he became the first since Nijinsky to win this trio of Classics, and John Magnier confirmed that they want to emulate that great with Triple Crown glory in the Gr.1 St Leger. “I said to Aidan when he came to Ballydolye that there was room for another statue,” Coolmore’s owner said, referring to the monument to Dr Vincent O’Brien’s champion that stands at Rosegreen.
All sorts of records fell in the process, but from the purist’s perspective, it’s enlightening to reflect on a few of the statistical truths that emerged on the back of his 5 length win in the Investec version of the Derby at Epsom earlier this month. Julian Muscat, he of French origins, always seems to find a different angle, and he wrote thus of Camelot’s sire Montjeu, the Coolmore outfit’s dominance, Aidan O’Brien and his 19 year old son, Joseph: “Superlatives do scant justice to the Coolmore syndicate’s dominance of the British turf, and no patron will better appreciate the fact than Her Majesty The Queen. The Investec Epsom Derby (Gr.1) June 2 marked the official start to four days of celebrations commemorating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. However, if the monarch thought she had seen it all in her 60 years on the throne, she will have to make due revision in light of recent events. In winning the Derby and the Oaks (both Gr.1) respectively, Galileo and Imagine completed the Epsom classic double for Coolmore 11 years ago. That rare distinction was repeated this year, although this time with a significant difference. The partners came to Epsom having already won the brace of Newmarket classics. Only the St Leger (Gr.1) stands between the Coolmore/Ballydoyle axis and a clean sweep of Britain’s classics. No trainer has yet achieved the feat. Camelot, who waltzed away with the Derby 24 hours after stablemate Was landed the Investec Epsom Oaks, is expected to lead Ballydoyle’s assault on the St Leger. For the O’Brien family, it was a seminal occasion: the first time a father-and-son combination had won the Derby, and a rare such triumph for a nascent riding talent. Joseph joins the likes of Lester Piggot (Never Say Die), Walter Swinburn (Shergar), and Mikael Barzalona (Pour Moi) as teenage Derby-winning jockeys. O’Brien turned 19 only last month.
Camelot is the fourth winner in the past 11 Derby renewals for Coolmore, which annexed the race last year with the Andre Fabre-trained Pour Moi. There may be other Coolmore Derby winners in the pipeline but few, if any, will triumph with the aplomb of Camelot. This exceptional talent is the fourth Derby winner in eight years for his late sire, Montjeu, who joins a small but select sample of stallions to sire four Derby winners, the last of them Blandford, who sired Bahram to win the classic in 1935. This alone emphasizes the extent of Montjeu’s loss, aged 16, at Coolmore in March. He will stand alone in Derby history if he can add one more from the 3 ½ crops he has to follow. Camelot is the unique son of Montjeu in that he is the only colt by his sire to date with sufficient speed to win a Group 1 race over a mile at 3.
The dominance exerted by the Coolmore/Ballydoyle axis is such that some turf lovers are beginning to feel a little overindulged. There was no Maktoum representative within an unsatisfactory field of nine Derby runners, and the traffic has become so one-way that the outcome to championship races in Britain seems almost preordained.
“It’s incredible, he hasn’t set foot on grass at home since Epsom, as we’ve been flooded, said O’Brien, greeting his 11th winner of the race and seventh in succession. “He’s passed every test all the way along, but I thought today would be too much for him, as we were asking him to swim against the tide. It was a massive call and I thought it was impossible, but John Magnier was very adamant that he wanted to support the race, and all the people and the sponsors. Joseph always said he didn’t like soft ground, and his wheels were spinning the whole way”.
“Every morning going in, we salute Nijinsky (the last Triple Crown winner) and we never thought we would have one that could pass all the same tests. Today was so special. We are looking for the next Sadler’s Wells”, the great trainer continued.
Coolmore supremo, Magnier added, “This horse has been tested all the way through and has shown the two-year-old form, the Guineas form, the hard, the soft and the battling and that’s what you want - you have to have all those qualities, so that’s my commercial. Sadler’s Wells ran in the bog here when winning the Beresford and did all those things too. It is like winter ground, but we had to run. Given a choice, we probably wouldn’t have done, but that would have been like the tail wagging the dog. We didn’t do the right thing, but we got away with it”.
Having allowed John Magnier his commercial, we’re compelled to mention that our own debutant for this breeding season, Golden Sword (also from the Sadler’s Wells tribe), ran second in the 2010 renewal of the Irish Derby whilst in Aidan O’Brien’s care. He will be on show to an international audience from more than twenty countries at Investec Stallion Day at Summerhill on Sunday 8th July.