AIDAN O'BRIEN'S Camelot became just the seventh Epsom Derby winner in a quarter of a century to race on as a four-year-old and he made a winning start to the campaign in the Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh yesterday.
The English and Irish Derby hero, who also won last season's 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, justified his long odds-on status when defeating stable companion Triumphant and the Jim Bolger-trained Parish Hall.
Camelot's return to action was made all the more significant after the horse suffered a serious colic last winter and according to his trainer "we are lucky to have him back".
O'Brien said: "We are obviously delighted with that. He had a big colic surgery and you never really know what will happen but the class and the speed is all there still.
"He had major open surgery and after the surgery is a massive time and he wasn't with us for months.
"He went back to Coolmore and I was shocked with the shape he came back to us, it was like he never had a problem."
Looking ahead to the future, the Ballydoyle trainer said: "The plan was always to start him off in those three races, today, the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Prince Of Wales' Stakes, and that remains the plan.
"It is a long season and that was his first run and I don't know how you put a figure on it, but Joseph said he was 70-per-cent fit there today."
O'Brien's quest to win the Epsom Derby again this year seems to have suffered a blow as leading fancy Kingsbarns looks "unlikely" to make the race.
The three-year-old, who missed last weekend's 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, is now a major doubt for the Derby also. "He won't be fit enough in time for the trials at Leopardstown, Chester or Lingfield although he is grand again and sound, but he has been doing so little for so long that he is more like a sprinter now.
"For the Derby and those races everything needs to run so smooth and unfortunately for him it hasn't.
"He is up about 20 kilos on his racing weight. It wouldn't be fair on the horse and I wouldn't think I am going to have him there although we will keep aiming there."