Stylish Camelot back in business at the Curragh
AIDAN O'Brien declared himself delighted after seeing his Classic winner Camelot make a perfectly satisfactory return to action in the High Chaparral European Breeders Fund Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh.
The son of Montjeu appeared destined for greatness after winning both the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and completing the English-Irish Derby double in the first half of last season, but he was narrowly denied Triple Crown glory in the St Leger.
He failed to run up to expectations on his final three-year-old start in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and was subsequently found to be suffering from colic, but was still the red-hot 1-3 favourite to take this Group Three prize on his eagerly-awaited comeback.
The presence of the Jim Bolger-trained Parish Hall added spice to the contest and Camelot was settled last of the five runners in the early stages before moving up menacingly rounding the home turn.
Joseph O'Brien had to shake up his mount, but did not resort to his whip, and Camelot quickened smartly to beat his pacesetting stable companion Triumphant by a length and three-quarters.
Parish Hall was slightly disappointing in third.
O'Brien senior said: "I'm delighted with that.
"He had big colic surgery in the winter and you never really know what is going to happen, but he has all his class and speed still so it's great.
"It was major open surgery, and after the surgery is a massive time. He went to Coolmore and was not with us for months.
"I was surprised at the shape he was in when he came back - that surgery is massive and we are lucky to have him.
"You take one race at a time, but the plan was always to start here, come back here for the Tattersalls Gold Cup (May 26) and then go for the Prince of Wales's Stakes (at Royal Ascot).
"He has a lot of speed - I know he got a mile and a half last year but you saw the speed he has today, he has a lot of pace.
"Joseph said fitness-wise he was around 70 per cent today."
Camelot's victory was the second leg of a double for the Ballydoyle team after 2-9 shot Michaelmas justified odds-on favouritism with a workmanlike victory in the Alfred Nobel European Breeders Fund Race.
O'Brien senior said: "He did it nicely. He was still green in front.
"There is a winner's race in Naas (May 15) he might go for. He was lazy and idling away and that's why he let him gallop along."
Eddie Lynam can rightly dream of Classic glory with Viztoria after she made a winning return in the Group Three Canford Cliffs European Breeders Fund Athasi Stakes.
A winner of her first two starts as a juvenile and second in a Group Three in France, the even-money favourite saw out the seven furlongs well under Johnny Murtagh to win decisively by a length from Bunairgead.
Lynam said: "We had three questions we needed answering coming here today - one was has she trained on, and she has. Two was would she get seven furlongs, and she did, and three was is she worth taking a chance with in the Guineas and she is.
"Johnny was happy and the trainer is not unhappy.
"We can dream for another 20 days."
Paul Deegan's 11-2 chance Sruthan could be Royal Ascot-bound after making it two wins from as many starts with a stylish performance in the Power EBF Tetrarch Stakes.
Deegan said: "That was good, he was impressive. Chris said the other horses were getting in his way three furlongs out.
"I don't know where he will go next but we always thought a bit of him and aiming high I think he could be a Jersey Stakes horse.
"He will stay a mile as well."
Willie McCreery's (16-1) Valbucca won on her first start of the campaign with a determined effort in the Club Bar Bistro At Keadeen Hotel Handicap.
McCreery said: "I thought the ground might be a bit dead for her but she is an honest filly. She will go for a fillies' handicap next at Navan on May 19."
Pat Shanahan's Scotland Forever (9-1) claimed a thrilling G.Duffy & Sons Citroen Maiden by a nose from Wexford Opera, while the Newbridge Credit Union Handicap went to 10-1 shot Slipper Orchid.