Saturday’s St Leger at Doncaster will attract wider public interest by virtue of the fact that Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot is attempting to complete the Triple Crown of English classic victories. If he can add the St Leger to his 2,000 Guineas and Derby victories he will become the first horse since Nijinsky in 1970 to succeed.
Whilst it would undoubtedly be a great achievement, it should be remembered that the Leger has lost some of its lustre in recent times. The oldest classic has not been the natural target of a Derby winner for many years with the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe seen as a much more desirable race to win. In fact, Reference Point in 1987 was the last Epsom Derby winner to run in the Doncaster classic. He faced just six opponents and landed odds of 4-11 for Sir Henry Cecil and Steve Cauthen. He went on to the Arc but finished lame behind Trempolino and was retired to stud. If Camelot comes through the Leger without having too hard a race, he may take his place in the Arc where he will face horses outside his own age group for the first time. Having proven himself the best colt of his generation, the racing public is keen to see him face the acid test of racing against his elders.
Some are questioning whether or not Camelot has the stamina to see out the extra two furlongs at Town Moor. He needed every yard of the mile to get his head in front in the Guineas and there was little doubt that he would relish to step up to the Derby distance. The only question mark against him there was whether or not he would settle for young jockey Joseph O’Brien. This he did and had plenty left in the tank to blow away his rivals up the Epsom straight. His victory in the Irish Derby was less convincing but it was run in heavy ground and it may have been the surface rather than the opposition that caused him to work harder that day. Certainly the subsequent heavy defeat of the runner-up Born To Sea did little to advertise the form.
In terms of his pedigree, he could hardly be better bred for the classic. He is by the late great Montjeu, winner of the Arc and the stallion of champions. His progeny include multiple Group 1 winner Hurricane Run, Derby winners Motivator, Authorized and Pour Moi plus Leger winners Scorpion and Masked Marvel. Camelot’s dam is Tarfah who won five of her eight races, including the Listed Snowdrop Stakes and the Group 3 Dahlia Stakes. Even subscribers to the legendary dosage system have little doubt that he will stay the distance.
His eight rivals are officially rated at least 9lbs inferior on all known form. Thought Worthy comes out top after his all-the-way win in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York but he is well held on Epsom form. Main Sequence came through late to grab second at Epsom and was again runner-up in the Voltigeur. His style of racing suggests that he will stay but his pedigree gives a little cause for concern. Trainer John Gosden is running a pacemaker in Dartford for his duo of Thought Worthy and Michelangelo whilst the consistent Encke and Ursa Major may have place claims. Ladbrokes are offering only 2-5 about Camelot writing his name into racing history tomorrow. There appears to be no obvious reason why he won’t do exactly that.