Saturday 20 January 2018

The Fugue to thwart Camelot assault

William Buick: Can score on The Fugue
William Buick: Can score on The Fugue
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

On a slightly less exalted Royal Ascot spread than yesterday, Camelot gets the opportunity to emulate his old stable-mate So You Think by securing a redemptive victory in today's Prince Of Wales's Stakes.

Looking back now, it's slightly ironic how Aidan O'Brien's handsome Australian import was considered only a qualified success for his northern hemisphere feats, five solid Group One triumphs not deemed quite enough to fully justify the hyperbole that emanated from those closest to him.

Ultimately, So You Think was judged by the lofty standards of praise that he generated both in Ballydoyle and Australia, so, for all that his swansong victory in this was the most convincing of his Irish tenure, objective observers pointed to the five times that he came up well short in the highest echelon of European Flat racing for balance.

In contrast to Camelot, though, he was very nearly the indomitable racing machine that he was so often made out to be.

Described in absolute terms by O'Brien as the best that he has trained, last year's triple Classic hero has been a victim of the same sort of bland verbal embellishments that left So You Think open to such rigorous critiques.

Utterly superior in the 2,000 Guineas and Epsom Derby, Camelot's exploits mightn't be nearly so harshly analysed if the first point of reference was simply that of his performances against his peers during his Classic campaign.

However, his tame autumn submission in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe preceded his brilliant handler's definitive statement.

If that loaded the sceptics' guns, his shock defeat to Roger Charlton's Al Kazeem in last month's Tattersalls Gold Cup saw the critics cock their weapons in readiness.

Today, both horses face off again, and another defeat for Camelot would see his reputation finally shot to pieces.

For all that O'Brien and his exquisite champion jockey son Joseph were in barnstorming form on the revered Berkshire downs yesterday, it's hard to be confident about Camelot dodging the bullets.

Al Kazeem is a progressive sort that is possibly far more suited by 10 furlongs on fast ground, as Camelot basically looked one-paced when succumbing to him on the Curragh. Still, both could prove vulnerable to The Fugue. John Gosden's mare's record at this trip is top class, with two wins and an unlucky defeat at the Breeders' Cup to show for three tries.

Needless to say, this is a big ask on The Fugue's seasonal reappearance. Nonetheless, on her favoured quick going, William Buick's mount has the scope to cause a minor upset.

Gale Force Ten, second to Magician in the Irish 2,000 Guineas last time, is fancied to strike a blow for the O'Briens in the Jersey Stakes, while David Wachman's Duntle, a fine winner of the Sandringham Handicap on this card in 2012, also appeals under Wayne Lordan in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes.

Charlton's Thistle Bird and Chigun, a good winner at the Curragh for the late Henry Cecil last month, are two other improvers to fear.

Last September, Duntle was denied a lucrative Group One success in the Leopardstown stewards' room, the only reversal that she has suffered in three runs since her victory here 12 months ago. She is a straightforward and honest mare with a touch of quality, and her win at Leopardstown in May suggested that a Group Two like this would be within her compass.

In this year's Sandringham, Bracing Breeze should have a big say for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen, while Johnny Murtagh has a chance of complementing yesterday's sensational coup on Sole Power when he saddles top-weight Sweet Lightning in the Royal Hunt Cup.

With eye-catching form behind Declaration Of War and Duntle, the smart Irish Lincolnshire scorer might not be badly treated when you factor in Luke Dempsey's seven-pound claim.

Selections

2.30 Gale Force Ten

3.05 Duntle

3.45 The Fugue

4.25 Sweet Lightning

5.0 Beldale Memory

5.35 Bracing Breeze

Irish Independent

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