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It's Camelot's Derby to lose

THE timing of the Curragh's decision to move the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby from its traditional Sunday afternoon berth to a Saturday evening slot couldn't have been any better.

Those who took that much- needed albeit difficult plunge to move with the times and break tradition already look like getting rewarded, with positive ticket sale bulletins emerging from the Curragh. And if the sun can weave a gap through the clouds, it could be a bumper crowd for our flagship day.

More so, there is no doubt that this move to attract racegoers to the Derby comes at a time when Flat racing seems to be as popular as it has been in a long, long time.

Frankel, Black Caviar and tomorrow's odds-on favourite, Camelot, have really enthralled a fraternity not usually so enticed by goings on on the level.

So often, the Flat game could well have been accused of being somewhat boring to those with just a passing interest. The name of Aidan O'Brien was down as winning trainer in so many of the high profile races and at times it was almost inevitable.

O'Brien has had yet another marvellous season with eight Group Ones already to his name, but while his dominance is as strong as ever, the success and supremacy of Frankel and the amazing story of Black Caviar have really attracted a wider audience this season.

Camelot winning both the Newmarket 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby has opened the door for him to become the first winner of an English Triple Crown since Nijinsky in 1970, and his class has ensured that punters don't want to miss him when he makes what could be his only appearance in Ireland this season.

Conditions are far from ideal. Despite flash flooding around the country yesterday, there were surprisingly strong drying conditions on the Curragh and that was a major boost, with further rain coming before the big race tomorrow helping to leave conditions testing.


However, Camelot is on course to face a maximum of six rivals for the 1m4f Classic and gear up for an exciting second half of what has already been a fascinating season.

Dermot Weld has warned that he may take out the Moyglare Stud-owned Speaking Of Which should we get much more rain at the Kildare venue, and somewhat disappointingly there is no British-trained representative deemed good enough to challenge the seven Irish colts declared.

Incredibly, Aidan O'Brien goes in search of his 10th Irish Derby and his seventh in a row. It would be an incredible feat, and one that would be welcomed, despite the aforemention-ed inevitability, as Camelot is the horse the majority of punters are ready to come and see win, and in the convincing fashion that has seen him already claim two Classics this season.

Only two of O'Brien's last six Irish Derby winners have been sent off favourite, but none of the favourites in that time were as short as Camelot will be tomorrow.

The closest to him in the betting is his stable-mate Imperial Monarch, while the John Oxx pair of Born To Sea and Akeed Mofeed are quietly fancied by connections to take advantage if any flaws transpire in the Camelot armour.

That is unlikely, however, and just before Ronan Keating provides the post-racing entertainment at the Curragh tomorrow night, expect all glasses to be raised to toast Camelot, a horse who will be aiming to rewrite many pages of the history book before this season ends.