Sport Horse Racing

Monday 9 December 2019

Maybe a weekend to savour for O'Brien

Chris McGrath

The first Classic of the season is surely inviting too many second comings for comfort. A year after wildly surpassing his billing, even as hot favourite, Frankel himself will be stretching his precious limbs in a gallop before racing, as he prepares to take his unbeaten career into a third season.

Those which will then try to carve their names beneath his, on Newmarket's 2,000 Guineas roll of honour, meanwhile include a colt preceded by scarcely less excitement, this time round, in Camelot, and a half-brother to the 2009 winner, Sea The Stars, in Born To Sea.

The latter might almost arrive as a rebuke from Sea The Stars, whose unprecedented campaign was reckoned to be epoch-making three short years ago. In the esteem of many, he has already been surpassed by Frankel. At the very least, then, an obligation of circumspection must be heeded in assessing the achievement and potential of Camelot.

After all, he has only beaten eight horses in his life. It is hardly his fault, of course, that no more were prepared to take him on at Group One level, at Doncaster last autumn, than on his debut at Leopardstown three months earlier. The very fact that he was fast-tracked from one to the other corroborated his reputation at Ballydoyle and he duly won in terrific style.

Moreover, his work this spring has been such that Aidan O'Brien is willing to risk a repeat of what happened two years ago, when he brought St Nicholas Abbey here with a similar profile. It took so long for that colt to regroup, after finishing sixth in the Guineas, that O'Brien must have been thoroughly convinced by Camelot before rejecting the more conservative option of starting him off in an Epsom trial.

With that in mind, a mooted anxiety about cut in the ground looks a red herring. It would have been more of a worry if Camelot were exposed, like St Nicholas Abbey, to fast ground in the dip.

But if the possible dividends make a punt worthwhile for O'Brien and his patrons at Coolmore Stud, the same hardly applies to punters contemplating odds that make some very generous assumptions. As the inexperienced son of a stallion whose progeny largely require middle distances, in a field so big that a draw bias is quite conceivable, Camelot offers little value against rivals with plenty of runs on the board.

Backers of his stablemate, Power, can invoke the 2002 running, when Rock Of Gibraltar thwarted Hawk Wing on the other side of the track. On that occasion, the brilliant, but raw jockey on the hot favourite was Jamie Spencer; today, that role is filled by O'Brien's teenage son, Joseph. Power is ridden by Ryan Moore, who has evidently forfeited his right to pick and choose at Ballydoyle, but together they bring loads of big-race form and know-how to the equation. Power followed a similar path to Rock Of Gibraltar at two, a strong finish off a steady pace in the Dewhurst here making another furlong look well within reach.

Just ahead of Abtaal and Power, however, the choice is Born To Sea. He was a shorter price than he finds himself today straight after winning a listed race on his debut, and John Oxx was quickly able to exonerate defeat on his only subsequent start. After pitching out of the gate, Born To Sea was not so much lame as on his knees minutes later.

His peerless trainer never runs a horse out of its grade and feels that Born To Sea retains every right to match his fine looks and regal pedigree. With Rock Of Gibraltar's jockey in the saddle, and berthed among the leading fancies, Born To Sea has an air of destiny.

O'Brien will have a crack at the Kentucky Derby overnight, though Daddy Long Legs must cope better with the dirt than he did when on reconnaissance at the Breeders' Cup last autumn.

After that, it's back to Newmarket tomorrow for the fillies, in the 1,000 Guineas, and another hot favourite for Ballydoyle in Maybe. The Fugue and Diala intriguingly hasten here for the least hasty of trainers, while those who insist on big odds are recommended a second look at Alla Speranza. But Maybe has experience to match her class, and exudes none of the equivocation implied in her christening. (© Independent News Service)

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