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A 'Lot to offer on Ascot stage


THIS time last year few would have thought that Camelot would be gracing the Royal Ascot stage tomorrow afternoon.

At this stage of his career 12 months ago, the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt had ran and won four times, including an Epsom Derby, and instead of Royal Ascot, he would contest the Irish Derby and complete the rare Epsom/Curragh Derby double.

Carrying the purple version of the Coolmore colours, it would have been expected that such an all conquering three-year-old would by this stage of his life be standing at a six-star stud covering the very best of mares in a new career.

Sportingly, though, the Coolmore powers decided to keep Camelot in training as a four-year-old despite his season ending rather disappointingly with defeat in the final leg of his Triple Crown bid and then a never threatening seventh in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

News of a bad bout of colic sent out further speculation that if he even survived this setback, that it would signal the end of his racing days. But no, he recovered well during a break at Coolmore and returned to action.

Described by Aidan O'Brien as one of the very best that ever passed through his hands, it was the sort of glowing praise that would light up a small town and when Camelot made a winning seasonal debut at the Curragh in May, it seemed a stepping stone to another successful campaign.

Few were overly impressed with Camelot's success in the aforementioned Mooresbridge Stakes at HQ, but the blended mix of O'Brien's glowing praise, the reputation of Ballydoyle's horses to come on for their first run and the consideration that the horse had life-threatening surgery just a couple of months previously, all made for a natural assumption of much more improvement to come before the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Just two were declared in opposition to Camelot, while Windsor Palace also ran, but he was there as more of an aid than an opponent and despite being sent off the 4/11 favourite, Camelot had to succumb to Roger Charlton's raider Al Kazeem.

A lightly raced five-year-old, Al Kazeem had previously beaten the highly regarded Thomas Chippendale on what was his first run in over a year and followed that up with a career best at the Curragh to beat Camelot.

Tomorrow in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, they will go hammer and tongs once again with nine others also declared.

On the face of it, there is simply no real reason to suggest that Camelot can reverse the placings as there was just no valid excuse the last day only he was beaten by the better horse.

Still, the handicapper has Camelot a pound higher than Al Kazeem, but the bookies rightfully make Al Kazeem the favourite and Camelot second favourite. What is astonishing, however is, that Al Kazeem is available at 2/1 if you shop hard enough, while Camelot is just 9/4 in places and for that there can only be one explanation ... Aidan O'Brien.

If Al Kazeem was trained by Aidan O'Brien, I would dare say he would be odds on and for some the fact that he is trained by Roger Charlton and is 2/1 is just enhancing the value about a colt that should frank the form of a race we saw just three weeks ago.

Aidan O'Brien's record, though, does speak for itself and if Camelot does win, it would be a surprise that he has reversed the form.

But you'll just find yourself saying (again), 'Isn't Aidan O'Brien some trainer'.

Time will tell if he can work the oracle with Camelot.