Thursday, May 24, 2012

The legend of Camelot

The legend of Camelot

By Stephen Dwyer

Camelot, long associated with the legendary King Arthur now resides in the Kingdom of Ballydoyle. Aidan O' Brien's stable star heads to Epsom on Saturday for the Derby, many believe he is a champion-in-waiting. As short as 4/5 for Britain’s richest horse race, Camelot is fully expected to provide Ballydoyle with their third Epsom Derby winner. Camelot is unbeaten in his three starts to date, all of them over a mile. He lost his maiden tag with the minimum of fuss in Leopardstown last July before following up with a very impressive victory in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October.

Aidan O’ Brien has no shortage of top class colts at Ballydoyle yet Camelot has always been held in the highest regard. It was said that rumours of Camelot’s colt's ability hadn't been so much whispered about on the grapevine as shouted from the rooftops. His win in the Racing Post Trophy in particular provided plenty of substance to the speed and ability of the son of Montjeu.

In this year’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, Camelot did not demolish the field so much as scrape home by a neck but he was given a well-timed ride by his regular partner, Joseph O’ Brien. Winning the 2000 Guineas by a neck might not provide enough bare lines of form for many but Camelot weaved through a quickly-finishing group and there perhaps was more left in the reserve than was called upon.

Camelot is out of Group 3 winning mare Tarfah, she in turn is by Kingmambo and the extra half-mile in the Derby should pose no problem for Aidan O’ Brien’s 3yo.  Speaking this week about Camelot’s hopes in the Derby, the Ballydoyle handler noted “Everything is fine and went well so far," said O'Brien. "Camelot was always a special horse here from day one. When he went to his maiden he was a very short priced favourite. I was very happy with the Racing Post Trophy win and then the Guineas was his first big test. He was always a very exciting horse. He is very relaxed and very straightforward but very calm." Camelot could be joined by stablemates Astrology, Father Of Science, Imperial Monarch and Tower Rock but none of these are in the same league as Camelot.

It is a full ten years since Aidan O’ Brien last won the Epson Derby. He posted back to back victories in 2001 and 2002 with Galileo and High Chaparral respectively. This year’s renewal does not look the strongest and in a race where four of the last eleven favourites have been successful, Camelot should prove he can stay the extra distance, and in some style.

You get the impression that Aidan O’ Brien is very keen to win another Derby given his recent record in the race. Over the past three years he has finished runner up every time. Treasure Beach was beaten by a head to Pour Moi last year, At First Sight was second to Workforce in 2010 and not even the very useful Fame And Glory could get near the dazzling Sea The Stars in 2009. Camelot will not encounter such stiff opposition on Saturday. His main antagonist will be recent Dante winner, Bonfire, whose odds have tumbled from 12/1 to 11/2 for the race. Bonfire, like Camelot, has only raced three times, his sole defeat was in France when finishing a luckless third in the Group 1 Criterium International over 7f at Saint-Cloud. Bonfire does not have a lot to find on form with Camelot and holds very solid each-way claims for his trainer Andrew Balding. For Balding it will be a first ever Derby runner and he is quite entitled to cast his lot.

It must be mentioned that Bonfire will be trying to emulate the likes of Reference Point and Authorized who won the Dante and went on to win the Derby. He is related to a winner over 10 furlongs but his sire won over 12 and should impart ample stamina to believe that he has every chance of getting the longer trip. What adds a little twist of fate is that both Bonfire and Camelot were raised in the same paddock at Highclere Stud.

Camelot though should prevail. The legend lives on.

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