A son of Montjeu lives the dream; The dream that St Nicholas Abbey thrived for, the dream that he had the ability for, the dream that he could not quite muster the fitness for after a two year old season of undoubted potential. Whilst St Nicholas Abbey now realises his dream two years later, it is another son of Montjeu who thrusts himself into the limelight with two legs of the English Triple Crown firmly under his belt. Not quite satisfied with that, he goes for Irish Classic glory on Saturday at the Curragh.
Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin/Goodtosoft.co.uk
In a year where the racing world prematurely lost Montjeu at the age of 16, it is Camelot who picks up the baton for his progeny. Unbeaten in five beating a total of 33 rivals in the process, Camelot has done all that has been asked of him and beaten every horse that connections dare to race against him. Saturday looks similar to his last five outings; A likely long odds-on shot, Camelot looks to use this as a springboard towards the final part of his jigsaw and the final part of the English Triple Crown. Don't be fooled by the voices that say this is just a very small warm up, Aidan O'Brien is clear in his comments that the Irish Derby is - in his own opinion - the greatest Derby of them all. With nine victories in the race to his name, it's clear to see that O'Brien has had somewhat of a stranglehold on this race since his taking over the reins at Ballydoyle and is undefeated in the race since 2005. Dylan Thomas, Soldier and Fortune and Cape Blanco have all won this race since O'Brien refusal to relinquish control of the race but the likes of Galileo, Desert King and High Chaparral also form part of a record nine victories in the race for O'Brien, an exceptional achievement for a trainer with many other records on his radar this year including Robert Frankel's long standing Group/Grade 1 victory tally. In typical Ballydoyle style, not comfortable with just one runner in an Irish Group 1, O'Brien also runs Astrology and Imperial Monarch in the race. Third in the Epsom Derby after cutting out most of the running, Astrology failed to perform last time at Royal Ascot when an odds-on favourite in the 'Ascot Derby'. It's interesting to see him entered here in a manner that seems to suggest - rightly or wrongly - that they are running him purely as a pacemaker because of his early speed. So soon after Ascot, it's not a move I personally welcome considering his talent prior to that race, but a move that Ballydoyle look set to pursue. Imperial Monarch on the other hand is the second favourite on the morning line having rattled home in the Prix du Jockey Club last time at Chantilly. Imperial Monarch is a talented son of Galileo most notably known for his wide victory at Sandown in the Classic Trial in May. Wide under the trees and giving away the best part of eight lengths on the home turn, Joseph O'Brien exerted a phenomenal finishing effort from his charge to be victorious over Thought Worthy. Imperial Monarch is yet to run over the Derby distance - at least he wasn't meant to - but his finishing burst and likeliness to improve for the Derby trip could make him an interesting opposition for his stable mate. Of the others, Born To Sea is a familiar name. A half brother to Sea The Stars out of Urban Sea, the wins haven't been forthcoming for Born To Sea like his brother yet he has steadily been progressing with each race. This step up to 1m4f comes after dual-Guineas runs in the English and Irish renewals of the race before his best effort yet in the St James' Palace Stakes. All of his previous runs have come over a mile and this step up is taken on chance, yet he has been rattling home late in his races since the English 2000 Guineas and the 1m4f should exert improvement from him. One with almost no stamina doubts to his name is Dermot Weld's Speaking of Which; A three year old son of Invincible Spirit, Speaking Of Which exploded onto the scene at the Curragh last month with a nine length success over two of Camelot's lesser stable mates - Athens and Soon. Weld has slowly been edging some exceptionally talented horses into the public eye this year including, most recently, a half sister to Emulous by the name of Caponata. Add Sapphire and the Ribblesdale Stakes winner, Princess Highway, to that name and you'll start to wonder just how good a season Dermot Weld could have. Speaking of Which himself has had just the three lifetime runs with the last race being his first foray into Group company and his first step up to 1m2f. The effort in that race firmly suggests he could be Camelot's main rival here and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that Weld could train the shock winner of the Derby on Saturday. Add Jim Bolger's Light Heavy and John Oxx's lightly-raced Akeed Mofeed into the mix and this race is arguably a tougher proposition for Camelot than the Epsom renewal.
Defending the Irish Derby for O'Brien may be first on the agenda but a date with Doncaster is drawing ever closer. Victory here is anticipated, awaited and expected but the field in which Camelot faces is tougher than his Epsom Derby victory. Tough as it is, victory for Camelot should be all but assured here en route to Doncaster and despite my personal belief that he will be beaten before the year is out, whether this spot is the one in which he is defeated in is another matter entirely.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)