It may seem daft to back a horse for a race nearly a year in the future before it has ever raced, but those who made Camelot the long-range Derby favourite before his juvenile debut were not wrong. And it is now as little as 10-1 against his trainer Aidan O'Brien staging a repeat at Epsom with Mars, an easy winner on his debut at Dundalk yesterday.
The son of Galileo has been regarded as one to go to war with for a while at Ballydoyle, and his reputation, coupled with the example of his now-celebrated stablemate, meant bookmakers took no chances and had him to the forefront of the Classic market. He is now its clear leader, having leapfrogged the unbeaten Royal Ascot winner Dawn Approach. It is the earliest of days for the white-blazed chestnut, but he is clearly an exciting prospect and his performance in the seven-furlong all-weather maiden was difficult to fault. Serene in the preliminaries, he made all the running under Joseph O'Brien, who wound the pace up and had most of his rivals on the stretch going to the hometurn.
An exception was the filly My Rules; with the experience of a run behind her she tackled the 4-7 favourite two furlongs down. But her presence, and one smack behind the saddle, reminded Mars of his job and he lengthened nearly five lengths clear, with fellow debutant and stablemate The Ferryman claiming second.
The appearance of Mars had been delayed because of the sodden state of most grass, including his home gallops, in Ireland, but it was worth the wait and such was the gear that he had engaged once in full stride, it took O'Brien nearly the length of the back straight to wind him down.
"He has a really good attitude," said the rider, "and is very uncomplicated. We've had to wait a while to get him out because of the way the ground has been. He was a bit green, especially as he had to make the running, and it's rare to see one win first time out on the bridle after doing that."
A decision about whether or not Nathaniel defends his crown in Saturday's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes will be made later in the week, but the John Gosden-trained Eclipse Stakes winner was among yesterday's 12 acceptors for the Ascot showpiece. The others include St Nicholas Abbey, Sea Moon and last year's Arc heroine Danedream, due to make her first start in Britain.
The German filly was only fourth on her latest run in France, but trainer Peter Schiergen expects an improved display on Saturday. "Nothing went right for her at Saint-Cloud," he said. "They went very slow early and that did not suit. She prefers a strong gallop and that is usually what you get in England. And soft ground will not bother her at all, she handles it very well indeed."
Chris McGrath's Nap:
Spirit Of The Law (8.20 Yarmouth)
Operates on soft ground and put a disappointing effort behind him last time in a better race than today's, with two subsequent winners.
Titus Titan (5.00 Beverley)
Worth a chance despite finishing a long way last of three on his debut.
One to watch:
The proven stamina of Winner's Wish (Jeremy Noseda) should stand her in good stead against her contemporaries in a division that lacks depth away from the very best.
Where The Money's Going:
Sunday's Fairyhouse winner, Chicago, is the latest to attract attention in the Ebor market, now 14-1 from 20-1 with BetVictor.