So close yet so far; Camelot's bid to become the first British Triple Crown winner for 42 years fell narrowly short as an exceptional ride by Mickael Barzalona saw Godolphin reign supreme, once again, in the St Leger with the Mahmood Al Zarooni-trained, Encke.
Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin/Goodtosoft.co.uk
Settled in the middle of the pack, Camelot and Joseph O'Brien looked to be taking an ambitious route with three furlongs to go, darting towards the inside of runners seemingly for a run up the rails. However, with this decision came trouble in running and despite Camelot travelling ominously well, his rival Encke was travelling equally , if not better than his counterpart. With two furlongs to go, Mickael Barzalona asked Encke for his effort and took three lengths out of the field. Joseph O' Brien began to ask Camelot to close but seemed to be held by Encke with incredible ease. Camelot, despite his late effort, could not close the deficit created by a masterful Barzalona ride and the dreams of the first British Triple Crown winner for 42 years had been and gone for yet another year.
O' Brien, who was visibly upset after the race and was unavailable to speak to the media present, has come under fire for an over confident ride which many believe had given Camelot too much to do too late. With Joseph O'Brien immediately exiting Doncaster Racecourse after the St Leger, his father, Aidan, was at hand to provide his views on the race.
"The minute the gates opened, Joseph was where he was and he couldn't do anything about it. It was exactly where I would have wanted him to be, he had to relax him but Camelot tanked a little bit early because the pace was steady" said O' Brien Snr, "When the gaps came, the winner was in probably a handier position and was gone - when Camelot got out, he just stayed on rather than quickened up. My regret is that I should have run a pacemaker or two and it would have made it a little bit more straightforward because he would've settled a little bit earlier and he might have quickened a bit more than he did".
For all the sense of an anti-climax that the defeat of Camelot provided, the exceptional ability to read the St Leger race perfectly reaped the rewards for Mickael Barzalona and Encke. "Mickael [Barzalona] has given the horse a superb ride and put the race to bed when he kicked on at the two furlong pole" said Simon Crisford, racing manager for Godolphin, "There was a questions about Encke's stamina but in the end he has stayed it well. From the furlong pole to the finish, I thought Camelot was never getting to us. We may be party poopers today but on this occasions we are happy to be party poopers. It is a fantastic result for the whole team involved with the horse".
Ironically, the inflicting of defeat to Camelot came from the very same jockey that provided the Coolmore operation with elation at their first Epsom Derby winner for nine years, when Pour Moi surged to victory in scintillating fashion in 2011. A year on and with a new retainer to ride for Godolphin alongside Frankie Dettori and Silverste de Sousa, Barzalona was surging to more Classic success and celebrating in his normal exuberant style almost falling off the horse on the turn after the finish such was the manner of his celebration. "When I saw Camelot on my inside, I preferred to go right a little bit and try to run. I kicked and asked my horse to go and he answered very quickly" said Barzalona It is undecided whether Camelot, a winner of four Group 1s spanning two years, will stay in training for the Coolmore operation, nor is it decided whether the horse will race again this year. However, to many the three year old son of Montjeu now has very little to lose in exposing himself further at the highest level in races such as the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe or the Breeders Cup Classic. Should Camelot take in the Breeders Cup Classic in a relatively open year and be victorious, he would return to the upper echelons of the breeding options.
Simon Crisford, Racing Manager for Godolphin, also confirmed that Encke will continue in training as a four year old through a campaign that is likely to mirror that of the past Godolphin middle-distance stars such as Rewilding.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)