Reared at the Highclere Stud, just outside Newbury, in the Royal county of Berkshire, Camelot would appear to have been brought up in a similar vain to the hundreds of thoroughbreds that pass through Highclere each and every season. In the eyes of breeder, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, however, a star had been born. The unnamed Bay Colt had princely looks and a touch of royalty about him as he strode and galloped about the paddocks of Highclere during his early days.
The Sheikh and Highclere were not the only people to realise the potential stardom of this colt, something that was crystallised when Dermot O’Byrne purchased Camelot as a yearling at the Newmarket Tattersalls Sales for 525 000 Guineas, on behalf of the vast Coolmore operation, where he was placed under the watchful eye of the master trainer, Aidan O’Brien.
After deciding to unleash their new classic hopeful at Leapordstown in a 5 runner 2 year-old maiden, the Ballydoyle team would have been satisfied with what they had witnessed that afternoon, if they weren’t the punters certainly were; Camelot’s comfortable 2 length success propelled him to the top of the Ante-Post market for both the 2000 Guineas and the Derby of 2012.
Before Camelot’s classic campaign was to get underway however, he faced one more outing and one more test as a juvenile. This test was to come in the prestigious Racing Post Trophy and again, facing only four rivals, Camelot passed this test with flying colours, quickening impressively to swoop from the rear of the field to first in a matter of strides to win, going away, by two lengths. This was just the beginning, and a snippet of what was to come in the future career of Camelot.
The 2012 Classic season began, as always, at HQ, on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket. Having not been seen on a racecourse since his Racing Post Trophy success some six months beforehand, there was a lot of anticipation surrounding Camelot’s quest for the 2000 Guineas and despite his absence, he was subject to some strong support leading up to, and on the day of the 2000 Guineas, starting a clear favourite at 15/8.
Camelot had been bred with the Derby in mind primarily, Montjeu was a Sire that wasn’t renowned for producing successful Milers and the manner in which Camelot battled to victory suggested that he would benefit from a step up in distance.
With Joseph O’Brien having to bring Camelot between horses for the first time in the colt’s career, it wasn’t quite as eye-catching a performance as perhaps his previous two had been, Camelot biding his time to hit full tilt before staying a gruelling final furlong, but it showed a diversity, fight and a glint of class in overcoming some difficulty to secure the first classic of the season by a neck; an impressive result considering that the Ballydoyle team used the Guineas as a seasonal reappearance and a prep race for their latest stable star.
The natural progression for the smarter three year-old colts following the Guineas is the most prestigious horse race in the world, The Derby, however, this year Camelot would be faced with a complete card of new challengers with no other Guineas runners turning up at Epsom. The new surroundings, distance and course would also prove to be another challenge for Camelot to overcome with Aidan O’Brien stating that “he’d never raced around a bend before Epsom”. But on this day, Camelot made all these potential difficulties seem irrelevant, racing around Tatenen corner like he’d rounded it several hundred times, not for the first; handling Epsom’s undulations with a fleet of foot more akin to a ballet dancer and staying the extra four furlongs with a devastating turn of foot and a proud ground eating gallop.
This was a performance of real class, showing Camelot to be truly, what many had dreamed and hoped of in his early days, this showed Camelot to be a star.
Stablemate Astrology looked to have had the race won two and a half furlongs from home, having made all and stolen a several length lead on the field; Camelot was eased into action over 3furlongs out, collared Astrology 2furlongs out, and accelerated away from the chasing pack 1furlong out, before being eased down yards from the line to win by 5 lengths. A magnificent Derby spectacle, and of course the second of a potential three Classics…
Three weeks later, Camelot was in action again in the Irish Derby, bidding to become yet another superstar, to win both the Irish and English Derby – something that the great Nijinsky, the last Triple Crown winner, achieved back in 1970 en-route to his St Leger success.
This may not have been as aesthetically impressive as his Epsom victory, but Camelot’s performance in the Irish Derby further highlighted his class and how he was head and shoulders above the rest of the classic generation. On almost unraceable ground, Camelot plugged on to secure victory by 2 lengths from Sea the Stars’ half brother, Born to Sea. It was another challenge that Camelot had overcome and another question about his stamina and handling of the ground answered, next stop, the St Leger at Doncaster and a step closer to securing the Holy Grail; The Triple Crown.
It has been well documented this week that both O’Briens (Joseph and Aidan) have more than slight stamina concerns over their stable star. Aidan O’Brien has “always dreamed of having a horse that could go for the Triple Crown” but in typically cool O’Brien style added that he was “pushing the boat out in terms of distance”.
Son and stable Jockey, Joseph, added to his father’s comments of concern stating that “the extra 2 (furlongs) make a big difference” when it comes down to Camelot staying out the St Leger trip.
There are some positive bulletins regarding Camelot’s Triple Crown bid however, Joseph stating that he was “a jockey’s dream to ride” and Lester Piggott, the last man to win the Triple Crown, has made no secret of his beliefs for Saturday’s showpiece; “He’ll kill his rivals for speed”.
It would be a “dream come true” for Joseph to guide Camelot to the first Triple Crown since 1970 and equally a “dream come true” for Aidan O’Brien to have Camelot back in training as a four year-old at Ballydoyle, but he insists that win or lose on Saturday, no plans have been made and “the boys (Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith) will sit down and talk about it” in the weeks following the oldest Classic, whilst not ruling out a tilt at the Arc, Breeder’s Cup or Champion’s Day “All those races are there, yes, but we don’t have a plan, the boys will talk about it after (the St Leger)”.
Camelot has shown he is a cut above the entire Classic generation of 2012, it hasn’t been the strongest renewal of Classic contenders by any means, but Camelot has shown plenty for us to believe that he certainly could have been good enough in years gone by. Aidan O’Brien deals with high volumes of classy animals each season at Ballydoyle, having access to probably the strongest stable in the world in terms of strength and depth and it is a testament to this horse that he is rated as one of the best the master trainer has ever saddled. It would be a fitting end to the St Leger on Saturday, to see Camelot turn in another classy performance and make history, securing the Holy Grail, the Triple Crown, for the first time in 42 long years.
Fancy Camelot for the Doncaster St. Leger? Back him at best priced 2/5 with Stan James!
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