Racing: Camelot enhances the legend of O'Brien

Camelot's brave victory at the Curragh comes after his impressive five-length win in the Derby at Epsom. Photo / AP
Camelot's brave victory at the Curragh comes after his impressive five-length win in the Derby at Epsom. Photo / AP

Aidan O'Brien and team Ballydoyle are used to statistical milestones, but there were a fair few more to add to the ledger on Sunday in the wake of Camelot's success in the Irish Derby.

Camelot provided O'Brien with a record 28th Irish Classic, one more than namesake Vincent, his predecessor at his Co Tipperary training centre.

It was his 10th Irish Derby and his seventh in a row, a new trainers' mark for consecutive wins in an English or Irish Classic, O'Brien having previously shared it with the 19th-century figure Robert Robson, who brought six up in the 1000 Guineas in 1823.

The five-strong field for Ireland's richest contest - it offers a purse of £1 million ($1.9 million) was the smallest since 1912, when Civility likewise beat four rivals. Camelot was the 15th horse to complete the Epsom-Curragh Derby double; the most recent two before him, Galileo in 2001 and High Chaparral a year later, were also trained by O'Brien.

Only one horse has started at a shorter price in the Classic than Camelot's 1-5, the 1-10 shot Orby, the first of the dual heroes in 1907. And the race gave O'Brien's son, 19-year-old Joseph, his first Irish Derby success.

But had the occasion not been Ireland's most prestigious, the record books would have remained unsullied, for Camelot would not have been asked to take part on the prevailing underfoot quagmire. "He's not even allowed to walk on ground like that at home," said his trainer afterwards.

That the colt had class was undisputed after his 2000 Guineas and Derby successes, and now determination and courage can be added to his list of qualities. He travelled smoothly as his pacemaker Astrology towed the field into the straight and went to the front with ease, but when asked to pick up and quicken as Born To Sea came at him inside the final quarter-mile he began to flounder in the mud. "His wheels were spinning," said O'Brien Jnr. "He hated the ground all the way but he has a big heart."

To the relief of his connections, the son of Montjeu dealt with adversity to the extent that he won going away by two lengths. And though John Magnier, the principal of the Coolmore stallion operation that Ballydoyle services, is Irish racing's most powerful mover and shaker, he is aware of his responsibilities to his industry. "It was like winter ground out there," he said, "but for us to pull out would have been the tail wagging the dog and a disservice to the organisers and sponsors. And we got away with it."

Camelot, unbeaten in five races, will now have a break before building up to his tilt at the St Leger and his attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since another Ballydoyle legend, Nijinsky, in 1970.

The experiment of making the Irish Derby, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, an evening event has been judged a success - despite the weather, the crowd was bigger than last year - and is likely to be repeated.

Although Magnier felt an obligation to run Camelot, there were no such constraints yesterday over Ballydoyle's two best fillies, Was, the Oaks heroine, and Maybe. Both were pulled out of the meeting's other Group One feature, the Pretty Polly Stakes, won with ease by the upwardly mobile British raider Izzi Top, a daughter of Pivotal representing the in-form team of trainer John Gosden and jockey William Buick.

- Independent

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