Camelot will bid to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 42 years this afternoon, as he lines up for the most eagerly awaited Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster in decades.
The great Nijinsky was the last horse to win the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St Leger in 1970, and Camelot will bid to emulate him at 3.40pm. Like Nijinsky, Camelot will represent the all-powerful Ballydoyle operation.
Nijinsky was himself the first to achieve the accolade since Bahram 35 years earlier, in 1935. Twelve horses in total have been considered to have won the Triple Crown, but only four of those in the 20th century and just one since the Second World War.
If Camelot was to gallop to Town Moor glory this afternoon, he would also supply trainer Aidan O’Brien with his own slice of horse racing history. The Irishman is attempting to become the first trainer to land all five British Classics in the same year, after Homecoming Queen took the 1000 Guineas and Was won the Oaks.
Understandably, it is virtually impossible not to fancy, or at least fear, Camelot in today’s showpiece event. The three year-old put up an eye-catching performance in the 2000 Guineas in May, when he came from last to first on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile. A scintillating performance in the Investec Derby at Epsom followed in June, as the colt quickened clear to win impressively. After keeping on well to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh four weeks later, on ground that was unsuitably testing, thoughts were firmly turned to this day.
Aidan’s son Joseph has ridden Camelot on all of his unbeaten career starts and will once again take the ride. The popularity of this horse continues to grow and a win today would prove fantastic for the sport, especially so soon after the exploits of the mighty Frankel.
Indeed, the only real concern (and that is arguable), is the trip of today’s final Classic. Run over a mile and six furlongs, the St Leger is the longest of the Classics and two furlongs further than Camelot has ever gone before. Yet, his win in the Derby would suggest that such a step up in distance would not bother him.
That said, as is always the case in this race, horses need to stay. Dartford, John Gosden’s pacemaker, looks set to ensure a strong gallop and many other runners will relish the stamina emphasis.
Gosden, along with stable jockey William Buick, has won the last two renewals of the St Leger and is, including Dartford, triply represented. Thought Worthy was fourth in the Derby, but won the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last time. If he stays the trip, he will attempt to give Camelot a run for his money and William Buick has opted for him ahead of Michelangelo. However, the latter, to be ridden by Frankie Dettori, may appreciate the test of stamina more than his stablemate. His third in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood showed his need for a longer trip and this horse is not without a turn of foot. The St Leger has been the plan for some time and the record that his trainer and jockey has is in it is enviable.
However, maybe Encke is an each-way bet. At 33/1, he comfortably defeated Michelangelo in the aforementioned race at the Glorious meeting. In the Great Voltigeur, he was beaten by Thought Worthy and Main Sequence, but was clear of another of today’s rivals, Thomas Chippendale. Encke is another who represents connections with an excellent St Leger record, and he is still improving. More success is sure to come his way and today’s mile and-three-quarter trip will help him.
Of course, the previously mentioned Epsom Derby runner-up Main Sequence is another who will enjoy the trip and is closely matched with all of his rivals. He is sure to give another bold show. Likewise Thomas Chippendale, although Sir Henry Cecil’s horse may lack the speed to be immediately competitive. His effort may come late.
Ursa Major is another Irish challenger who has looked good in his races this season and is continuing to improve. Johnny Murtagh is having an excellent week so he will get a tune out of him.
Guarantee completes the line up and is a first Classic ride for jockey Phillip Makin. He has been doing his winning in handicaps and will need to improve, although is entitled to.
There really is only one question on everyone’s lips, however. Can Camelot end England’s longest wait for a Triple Crown champion?
Image courtesy of The Guardian