Aidan O’Brien hails Camelot ahead of Irish Derby at the Curragh
AIDAN O'Brien has hailed Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby favourite Camelot as "unique" as he bids to conquer unfavourable ground and maintain his unbeaten record at the Curragh on Saturday.
The Irish Classic has been moved from its traditional Sunday slot to the last race on Saturday's card at 7.40pm, in the hope that it attracts a bigger crowd.
Such trivialities mean nothing to O'Brien, who is charged with masterminding the career of a colt who could create history by becoming the first winner of the Triple Crown in over 30 years.
He was given a confident ride by Joseph O'Brien to win the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and then claimed a small-field Derby in impressive style at Epsom.
With O'Brien having won the last six renewals of the Irish equivalent and nine in all, there will not be many backing against him making it the perfect 10 tomorrow.
The only doubt in O'Brien's mind is if the ground were to come up very testing.
"Camelot is a very good-actioned horse. He obviously won the Guineas on slowish ground but it was lovely, fast ground at Epsom," O'Brien told RTE Radio.
"We would obviously have to have concerns if it went very soft and it is not ideal and the more it dries out, the better it is for him.
"Paul (Hensey, Curragh manager) thinks it will be dry enough up to race time and obviously we hope that is the case.
"He's been special all along. He won the Racing Post Trophy last year, then he was very impressive in the Guineas and in the Epsom Derby which was his last start.
"He's always shown a lot of speed, a lot of class, a lot of courage, so he's just one of those unique horses that come along very rarely."
As is usual in the Classics, O'Brien has multiple contenders but there is a slight doubt about one of his intended runners, the Sandown Classic Trial winner Imperial Monarch.
"We hope to run Imperial Monarch but when we were shoeing him he just had a slight little pulse in his foot, we hope that doesn't turn into anything," he said.
"We hope to run him and the horse that was third in the Epsom Derby (Astrology).
"I think John Oxx's two (Born To Sea and Akeed Mofeed), Jim Bolger's (Light Heavy) and Dermot (Weld, Speaking Of Which) has one, they are all legitimate horses who deserve to be in it and it's as competitive as always."
Akeed Mofeed has not been seen since September due to a series of little niggles, but he was a big talking horse through the winter.
Second in the Beresford Stakes when last seen, it looks a stiff task first time out at three.
Bruce Raymond, racing manager to Akeed Mofeed's owner Jaber Abdullah, feels the race will set the horse up for the rest of the campaign.
"We're getting him on the track at last. John (Oxx) assures me he's as fit as he can get him without a run," said Raymond.
"We're hoping for a big run from him and hopefully it will set him up for the future."
William Buick, over in Ireland to ride Izzi Top for his boss John Gosden on Sunday, will get the leg up this time as stable jockey Johnny Murtagh rides Born To Sea.
Buick said: "It's fantastic to get such a good ride in the Irish Derby. I'm really looking forward to it.
"He was high-profile horse last season and it's fantastic to ride for Mr Oxx - I'm really looking forward to it.
"It's always nice to be riding in these races and particularly nice to be riding such a nice horse for connections like that."
Speaking Of Which was unraced as a juvenile and after a promising debut, he won a Cork maiden before waltzing away with the Gallinule Stakes by nine lengths.
However, soft ground would be a worry and connections of the Moyglare Stud-owned colt will make a decision on his participation on Saturday morning.
"We're just not sure about the trip in the soft ground," said Stan Cosgrove, Moyglare's racing manager.
"We'll make a final decision tomorrow morning.
"He worked out on the Curragh this morning. He was on the Old Vic gallop and went very well.
"The thing is we don't want to mess him up long-term by running him on really bad ground so we'll just have to see."
Murtagh faced a difficult choice with Born To Sea and Akeed Mofeed both representing his boss, but he stayed loyal to Born To Sea.
"I just think the fact that he's race-fit put things in his favour," said Murtagh.
"We didn't think he'd want a mile and a half at first but he stayed on very well in the Irish Guineas from a long way back and at Ascot I thought turning in I had a good chance, but he just stayed on rather than quickened.
"His dam (Urban Sea) has produced a lot of middle-distance horses and she has a huge influence. Horses like Galileo, Black Sam Bellamy, Sea The Stars and All Too Beautiful all stayed a mile and a half well.
"At the start of the year we didn't think he'd want to go this far, but maybe he does.
"I still believe he's a Group One horse."