Saturday 20 January 2018

Camelot tops in Flat campaign of two halves

Anastasia O'Brien, daughter of Aidan O'Brien, after finishing sixth on Flower Bouquet in her first racecourse ride at the Curragh yesterday.
Anastasia O'Brien, daughter of Aidan O'Brien, after finishing sixth on Flower Bouquet in her first racecourse ride at the Curragh yesterday.

Notwithstanding the vanquished prospect of Camelot emerging as the next Nijinsky or Frankel or Sea The Stars, it hasn't been a half-bad domestic Flat season.

We will learn in the next couple of days if the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt is going to get the chance to redeem himself following his St Leger defeat in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday (when he would have a new jockey, after O'Brien confirmed that his son Joseph would not be asked to do the required 8st 10lb).

However, in the greater scheme of things, he has already contributed more than his fair share.

He is a triple Classic winner, and time will inevitably look more kindly on his fantastic 2,000 Guineas-Epsom Derby double than any contemporary analysis can reasonably permit given the woefully sub-standard level of opposition.

In one sense, Camelot's lot has been synonymous with Ballydoyle's wider fortunes throughout the campaign, starting off in a sensational blaze of glory before fading out to reveal something far more ordinary.


By the end of June, with nine Group One winners, O'Brien was on course to give his previous seasonal best of 23 a good rattle.

Then the likes of So You Think and Homecoming Queen were retired, big races that might have been won weren't, with July throwing up just a solitary top-level triumph.

August yielded two, but a clean sweep of English Classics and a Triple Crown bid simultaneously went a-begging in September, which ended yesterday barren in terms of Group One riches.

Moreover, there isn't even the consolation of a quality crop of Rosegreen two-year-olds to look forward to next year, though Mars might yet rectify that.

Joseph O'Brien's ongoing battle for the jockeys' championship could also provide further consolation.

If the frequency with which the talented 19-year-old inexplicably puts up overweight is anything to go by, his battle with the scales appears to be reaching a hopeless crescendo, but he and Pat Smullen should at least provide an enthralling subplot to the season's conclusion.

Sadly, no Irish yard other than Ballydoyle has won a Group One on foreign soil this term, but Royal Ascot threw up no fewer than eight winners, including Dawn Approach.

Jim Bolger's unbeaten colt is the clear favourite for next year's 2,000 Guineas, and is so with good cause. Courtesy of his National Stakes success, he is also one of eight horses to ensure that there was no Ballydoyle monopoly on Irish Group Ones, with just four going to O'Brien.

Six went the way of English-trained horses, although David Wachman will on Thursday appeal the race-day stewards' decision to demote Duntle in the Matron Stakes.

If you take that result as it stands, each of the fillies-only Group Ones went for export, with Snow Fairy -- ruled out for the rest of the season over the weekend after a recurrence of the leg injury that she incurred last winter -- another female raider to excel in Leopardstown's Champion Stakes.

A week later, Andrew Tinkler's Royal Diamond took the St Leger for Niall McCullagh and Tommy Carmody.

At 43, McCullagh was overdue his day in the sun, and Carmody's return to the training ranks has been one of the success stories of the year.

The collateral damage of Johnny Murtagh's sacking by the Aga Khan provided an element of unexpected drama, but the Meath native clearly has a valuable input on Tinkler's behalf.

With just a pair of Group Ones to his name, life has taken on a different reality for Murtagh this term, though that didn't stop him riding his rivals to sleep from the front to claim that second successive Cheveley Park victory on Rosdhu Queen at Newmarket on Saturday.

His old weighing room colleague, Pat Shanahan, is another handler enjoying a tremendous debut campaign, Andy Oliver and Mick Halford also both continue to impress, while Maarek and Gordon Lord Byron have provided David Nagle and Tom Hogan, respectively, with some fine memories as well.

On the riding front, it has been a breakthrough year for Shane 'Dusty' Foley, with Wayne Lordan and Chris Hayes the two other standout performers.

Hayes and Oliver are steadily climbing side by side, and still have an outside squeak of claiming a first Group One with First Cornerstone before the dust settles on 2012.

Foley was cruelly denied his first by McCullagh on Halford's Massiyn in the St Leger, as was Lordan his first on home soil when Duntle lost the Matron in the stewards' room.

Come Thursday, we'll find out if there is one last twist in that tale.

O'Donoghue snapped up for Melbourne duty

Colm O'Donoghue has been booked to ride Jakkalberry for Marco Botti in the Melbourne Cup on November 6.

The Cork-born rider took the inaugural running of the American St Leger on Jakkalberry at Arlington in August, and Botti confirmed yesterday that he will be aboard the 10-time winner for a warm-up in the Caulfield Cup ahead of a tilt at the famous Flemington handicap.

Botti also reported that the horse, a 25/1 shot for the Cup, had arrived Down Under after taking the journey in his stride, though Dermot Weld had less positive news about the way that Galileo's Choice (16/1) travelled.

The Curragh maestro, who will be bidding for his third Cup success, said that the recent dual Leopardstown winner had "a very tough flight", but is responding to antibiotics after being treated for a temperature.

Beach runs aground

in Belmont turf test

Treasure Beach, on which O'Donoghue landed the Irish Derby and Secretariat Stakes for Aidan O'Brien last year, found one too good on his latest American venture in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Saturday night.

Having led early, the Jamie Spencer-ridden 9/2 shot had no answer when the odds-on favourite Point Of Entry swooped by to reaffirm his status as America's best turf horse with a third Grade One win on the spin.

Heskin's Handsome

reward for Leahy

Charleville-based Denis Leahy saddled his first winner on the track since July 2009 when Handsome Dan, backed from a 16/1 morning show into an 8/1 SP, ran out an authoritative winner of division two of the three-mile handicap hurdle at Clonmel under Adrian Heskin.

The first leg was harder fought, with Realt Den Chathair coming from the rear to chin Playtime Ben for Eoin Griffin and Eddie Connell.

In the novice chase, the well-backed Charles Byrnes-trained Sea Of Thunder (evens favourite) relished the firm ground on his fencing bow to hose up by 13 lengths under Davy Russell.

"He might go to Cheltenham now in November," Byrnes said of the Gigginstown Stud-owned winner.

Lavery and Hughes

on money in Navan

Captain Arceus (10/1, Roger Loughran) and Tofino Bay (2/1 favourite, Davy Russell) combined to give Dessie Hughes a 32/1 double in the maiden hurdle and beginners' chase respectively at Navan -- a card that also saw the promising Declan Lavery ride his first winner since joining the paid ranks.

Lavery, who is based with Willie Mullins, made much of the running on the Colin Bowe-trained Our Victoria (5/2) in the Le Grande Chase, and the mare responded well by stretching 16 lengths clear to claim the €13,000 prize.


2 -- Number of the first three in Saturday's Cambridgeshire that were trained by Marcus Tregoning, who saddled the winner Bronze Angel and the third Boom And Bust.

24 -- Years since Felim O'Dowd, who is based in Camolin, Co Wexford, went without a winner prior to Celerity Rules making all to land the bumper at Navan under Mark Slevin.



The President of Pakistan is on my flight, thanks to BA for the upgrade but his bodyguards are making me feel uneasy #mywhipishardlyaweapon!!

-- Having found the classy Point Of Entry too good on Treasure Beach in New York, Jamie Spencer encounters a different sort of first-class rival on the way home.

Irish Independent

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