Camelot plunders the Guineas
O'Brien's unbeaten Classic winner is now as short as even money for a successful tilt at the Derby glory
Sunday 06 May 2012
In terms of follow-up acts, yesterday's 2,000 Guineas winner just might have been a bit of a karaoke Kevin to Frankel's Sinatra. But in Camelot we may have a colt who could be as good for the sport's box-office as the one who blitzed home in the season's first Classic 12 months ago and is now rated the best on the planet.
Sure, victory by a neck, however smooth, cannot make the same visual impact as a six-length solo tour de force. But in its way Camelot's success was every bit as impressive as Frankel's and he is now even-money favourite for the Derby and, intriguingly, as short as 3-1 to add the St Leger and become the first Triple Crown hero since Nijinsky 42 years ago.
Given an inch-perfect ride yesterday by another young prodigy, Joseph O'Brien, the son of Montjeu came from nearly last to first to lead going to the final furlong. And, having shown his class in the way that he quickened to stamp his authority, despite the testing underfoot conditions, the15-8 favourite then demonstrated determination and barely touched reserves of stamina to shrug off French raider French Fifteen.
Camelot gave trainer, Aidan O'Brien, his sixth 2,000 Guineas, the best in the modern era and a tally exceeded only by 19th century figure John Scott's seven. It was the first, though, ridden by his son. And the strategy hatched by the teenager had O'Brien senior, by his own admission, concerned.
"He knows the horse," he said, "but when he said that he'd be nearer last than first for the first half of the race I did wonder. You'd have to have been worried about riding him for pace in a big field in that sort of ground, with horses in front tiring and gaps coming and closing in front of him. But I'm glad I bit my tongue."
Yesterday was not the first time that O'Brien junior, who turns 19 later this month, has demonstrated a race-riding vision beyond his years and experience; he is both a horseman and a jockey. Camelot was drawn in the middle of the field and, as the pack split across the course, O'Brien came with the largest group, on the stands' side of the track.
"I decided to let him relax," he said "and though I was a long way back I always felt comfortable. The pace was good and he picked up really well from two down to the furlong marker. He has a lot of class and speed and although it was sticky old ground and he wasn't in love with it and got a bit tired in the last 100 yards, he has a good attitude and a good mind."
French Fifteen (12-1) kept the winner honest all the way to the line and had two lengths in hand of his third-placed compatriot Hermival (16-1), who finished on the far side rail. Trumpet Major, fourth, did best of the home side.
Camelot, whose stablemate Maybe will start favourite for this afternoon's 1,000 Guineas, is highly likely toimprove for yesterday's outing, his first of the season, a step up in distance and better ground. Next stop, all being well, will be Epsom. And though Frankel ducked the Derby challenge last year, his young brother Noble Mission, who took another step up his own ladder with a cosy success in a minor contest yesterday, may yet take it up.
Frankel himself returned to the scene of his first great triumph yesterday before racing and showed some of his electric brilliance in a piece of work as he builds up to the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday week, barely contained by Tom Queally's hands.
"He settled well cantering down the track," he said, "but coming back was something else. You forget how much speed and power he has," he said. "Give him a quarter of an inch and he's gone; you're on a knife edge the whole time. But he's a thrill to be around."
Those present for the workout concurred; there are not many horses who prompt a burst of applause at the end of an exercise gallop, and a stampede to watch him unsaddled. Camelot may become a legend; Frankel is one already.
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