The career of the last Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky, ended in anticlimax with defeats in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Champion Stakes for the previously unbeaten three-year-old in the autumn of 1970. The colt who has come closest to emulating him in the intervening years, Camelot, winner of the 2,000 Guineas and Derby in 2012 before being beaten three-quarters of a length in a St Leger which seemed his for the taking, has today been retired days short of a possible appearance in the Champion Stakes. It comes after a largely barren post-Classic campaign which included a lacklustre run in last year’s Arc and only a minor win at the Curragh in the spring before successive defeats behind Al Kazeem in the summer.
Injury rather than unsuitable ground has prevented Camelot appearing at Ascot on Saturday and caused Breeders’ Cup plans to be scratched after the son of Montjeu was found to be lame on Monday morning. To many he had not seemed the same horse since suffering a bad bout of colic over the winter and his trainer, Aidan O’Brien, acknowledged as much.
“He was the perfect racehorse, a beautiful horse with a terrific action. Speed, class and a super-intelligent horse to go with it – he had it all,” O’Brien said. “Unfortunately, we never saw the same brilliance on the racecourse as we had done before his colic operation, but he was showing signs of it at home in recent weeks, so it’s obviously disappointing that he won’t get the opportunity to run again.”
His status among Derby winners is far from assured, with only one subsequent victor behind him at Epsom and his Classic generation widely questioned, although it had the misfortune to toil in the shadow of Frankel. Saturday’s third Champions Day at Ascot will take place for the first time without the great horse and in his absence Cirrus Des Aigles, runner-up to Frankel in last year’s Champion Stakes and the winner in 2011, is as short as 5-4 for this year’s running, in the expectation of the testing ground which has enabled Corine Barande-Barbe’s seven-year-old to recapture his form this autumn. Dawn Approach is 2-1 favourite for the mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.