Tuesday 11 September 2012

Camelot one step away from racing legend

As the hours tick away to 3.40 at Doncaster on September 15, the excitement in the racing world grows ever more fevered as followers of Flat racing wait and wonder if the Aidan O’Brien-trained Camelot can indeed live up to his illustrious name and establish himself as an all-time racing legend by winning the Triple Crown.

Not since the heady days of the Vincent  O’Brien-trained superstar Nijinsky (ridden by the mighty Lester Piggott), way back in 1970, has a horse managed to win all three legs of the British Triple Crown; the 2000 Guineas run over a mile at Newmarket in May, the Epsom Derby over a mile-and-a-half in June, and the St Leger at Doncaster in September – run over the stamina sapping one-mile-six-and-a-half-furlongs, the last furlong of which has so often proved a bridge too far for many of the great St Leger runners over the years.

Just keeping a horse fit and well over such a time span is a feat in itself, but to win all three races at such a variety of distances is phenomenal. It requires a horse to have the speed to beat the best milers around in the spring, the agility to handle Epsom and stay a further half-mile in front of more than 250,000 racing fans in June, and then the stamina and guts to see out the trip of the St Leger in the early-autumn.

When Sue Magnier gave Camelot his name it was in the hope that he would live up to all the expectations having been bought for 525,000 guineas as a yearling by her husband John and his long-time Ballydoyle partners Des Smith and Michael Tabor. The name had been registered and saved for 10 years, just waiting for the right horse to come along.

Nearly two years later, unbeaten in all five starts, including last year’s Group 1 Racing Post Trophy, this year’s 2000 Guineas, Investec Derby and the Irish Derby, the son of Montjeu is ready to face his destiny on Town Moor. Bookmakers seem all but certain that barring an accident Camelot will be crowned racing’s new monarch, even in a season where the sensational Frankel has carried all before him and brought the house down at every turn.

4/11 is generally the best price on horse racing bets about Aidan O’Brien’s pride and joy, but we won’t know whether or not that represents good value until he gallops into the unknown territory of the final quarter-mile at Doncaster on Saturday as Camelot strives to lift the Triple Crown for the first time in 42 years.