Sport Horse Racing

Monday 11 December 2017

Magnier relieved as Camelot fairytale continues

IAN McCLEAN at The Curragh

A NEW day, a new format, a new time -- but the same outcome. Aidan O'Brien trained his 10th winner of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby when the unbeaten talking-horse of the present season, Camelot, extended his unbeaten career record to five -- returning at 1/5 the shortest-priced winner since Orby in 1907.

With the steady decline in attendances and the increased competition from other sports on a Sunday, the Curragh decided to change strategy by shifting the attention of its flagship race from a traditional Sunday slot to more consumer-friendly Saturday evening.

Therefore, there must have been a collective sigh of relief around the Curragh plains when O'Brien finally confirmed the participation of the unbeaten Camelot after intimating earlier yesterday morning that he might withdraw his superstar owing to the torrential rain. It didn't preclude two other morning withdrawals, resulting in Camelot facing the smallest Irish Derby field since 1912.

It can't have been an easy decision for those associated with Camelot to endorse his participation. Notwithstanding the prize-fund of nearly three-quarters of a million euro, the horse had more to lose than to gain by competing in ground conditions that were never going to play to his strengths.

And although Camelot prevailed in the end, the victory was probably best summarised by John Magnier when he admitted, "we just got away with it". Indeed the prevailing sense from the Coolmore camp was one of mass relief -- by contrast to the triumphant euphoria that reigned at Epsom earlier in the month.

It is fairly certain that were it not for the close ties with sponsors and the racecourse committee, connections would have made a different percentage call and left Camelot at home. It is to their credit that they didn't. Camelot didn't treat his fans to the usual fireworks -- indeed his two-length defeat of Born To Sea was the most unimpressive win of his career -- but it did demonstrate he possesses guts and stamina to go with his speed and class.

Joseph O'Brien reported that Camelot "hated the ground all the way" and that despite a wobble in the straight when he jinked slightly left into the path of the challenging Born To Sea, the horse had effectively "got him out of a hole". Born To Sea's trainer John Oxx reported: "Johnny [Murtagh] thought he had him for a while and so did I but both horses were running around on the ground.

"Every time Born To Sea runs he runs better and he ran very well tonight. Maybe the ground just got to him in the last 100 yards but he made a race of it."

With three Classics in the bag in just two months, Camelot has earned himself a rest before being prepared for an autumn campaign. That campaign is certain to have the completion of a Triple Crown as its crowning objective which, given the Doncaster St Leger comes just a week after Leopardstown's Champion Stakes, means that yesterday is likely to be the last time we will see Camelot race in Ireland.

Aidan O'Brien's relationship with the Irish Derby is a case normally reserved for the Monopolies' Commission. In winning his 10th, he has now won the race twice as many times as he has been defeated in it since his inaugural win with Desert King in 1997.

In addition, he's had more 1-2-3 clean sweeps than I can remember. The quality of the race may be declining but that won't faze the trainer, especially as Camelot was the first to be partnered by his son Joseph. Whatever about the myth of Camelot, it must seem pretty fantastic for a 19-year-old that he should be joint-champion apprentice last year, and now, before this season has even reached half way, he has already won five Classics.

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