A battle of Britain against Ireland, the match up between the heavily-hyped dual Classic winning Camelot and the talented Al Kazeem was a tantalising race in prospect and the final stages and the result of today's Tattersalls Gold Cup lived up to all the expectations.
Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
A four runner Group 1 contest, only Camelot and Al Kazeem looked up to the task coming into the race. Camelot, a dual Classic and multiple Group 1 winner, had looked laboured in victory last time out whereas Roger Charlton's Al Kazeem had looked impressive in his comeback, a victory which was subsequently franked by the runaway Ascot success of Ektihaam whom finished third in that contest.
As the runners angled into the stretch after the Ballydoyle pacemaker, Windsor Palace, carried out his traditional duties, Camelot pulled to the outside with Joseph O' Brien seemingly preparing for his charge to pull away as soon as he was asked. However, the response from Camelot was notably poor, seemingly unable to deliver any real sparkle once he came off the bridle.
Instead, Al Kazeem loomed a talented, smooth travelling figure on Camelot's outside. With two furlongs to go, James Doyle angled to the outside with a tight grip on the five year old son of Dubawi. As he asked Al Kazeem for his challenge, he delivered and ranged up alongside Camelot before pulling clear comfortably in the closing stages for a two length success.
To the doubters of Camelot's credentials both last year and this, this was far from vindication for their beliefs that the son of Montjeu was the best of a poor crop. Al Kazeem is a highly talented individual who has threatened to perform significantly well at the highest level. However, it does raise significant question marks over just how highly Camelot can be rated and whether he is the 'super horse' that Ballydoyle and its fanbase have long believed.
With St Nicholas Abbey, Moth and Magician rapidly making big waves with exciting performances, Camelot will need to bounce back with a highly enthralling performance at Royal Ascot if he is to regain the title of being the best horse n his yard, let alone in Europe.
"He ran well, he probably got a little bit tired and met a very fit horse on the day." said Aidan O' Brien of the runner up, whom had had the same number of preparation runs as the victor, "He leaned a little inside the last but that's the first time he's been asked to really race since he had his big colic operation. We've just been bringing him along gently and Ascot (St James's Palace Stakes 1m2f) is still the plan."
"You have to respect Camelot and passing the two pole I couldn't believe how well I was going." said winning jockey, James Doyle, "Roger always said he'd get him back and it is great to see it all coming together. He is a horse with a lot of class. He went to Sandown and we left a bit to work with but the race went well and he came on leaps and bounds for it."