Camelot claims Irish Derby


It wasn’t particularly pretty but Camelot remains unbeaten and Aidan O’Brien is now the most successful trainer in this country’s classic history after a two length success in this evening’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.

On very testing ground Camelot couldn’t exhibit the acceleration that took him to Derby victory at Epsom earlier in the month but he still had enough to become the 16th horse to complete the English-Irish Derby double. He emulated the legendary Nijinsky by also having the English Guineas under his belt and the way is now open for him to try and emulate the former Ballydoyle great again by completing the English Triple Crown in September’s St Leger at Doncaster.

But there was a moment outside the furlong pole when those heavy-hitters who’d backed Camelot into 1-5 favourite must have sweated as he jinked to the left when hitting the front and Born To Sea momentarily looked like giving him a fight. Jockey Joseph O’Brien had to ask Camelot to stretch out and at the line his superiority was undoubted despite ending up in the middle of the track.

“I was very worried on the turn-in. It’s very heavy ground. They’re barely getting through it. But he showed his class and his heart,” O’Brien Jnr, riding his first Irish Derby winner, said.

The 1-5 SP made Camelot the shortest priced Irish Derby winner in over a century and as well as giving Aidan O’Brien a seventh Irish Derby in a row, and a 10th in all, it also gave the champion trainer a unique place in Irish racing history.

Camelot was his 28th Irish classic victory, taking him one ahead of his Ballydoyle predecessor, the legendary Vincent O’Brien. At just 42 years of age, the modern boss of the world’s most famous training establishment looks about to re-set the parameters of racing achievement.

“Joseph has always said he is a good ground horse so we weren’t sure how he’d do on the ground,” O’Brien Snr said. “But he’s a wonderful horse.”

The runner up Born To Sea ran a fine race and had nine lengths in hand of the third horse Light Heavy. “I thought I had it when I got to within three quarters of a length of Camelot but in the last 150 yards he died a bit,” Born To Sea’s jockey Johnny Murtagh said. “On better ground we might have made him work harder. But mine’s a good horse.”

Camelot could graduate to classic greatness though by pulling off the Triple Crown and is rated only 1-4 by Ladbrokes by the Leger sponsors Ladbrokes. He is also ante-post favourite for the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe in October. “The Leger is still very much alive. It’s a possible,” said the Coolmore boss John Magnier.

Just five lined up for the €1.25 million classic after Speaking Of Which and the other Ballydoyle declaration Imperial Monarch were taken out due to the testing ground conditions. Bright sunshine reigned for the Derby though and a large crowd was on hand on the first Saturday evening date for Ireland’s premier classic. Also new was the Derby’s positioning as the last race on the card, following the lead of many top American events including the Classic at the prestigious Breeders Cup meeting.

Earlier the Coolmore Stud team had emerged best in the Group 2 Railway Stakes but it was with neither of the Aidan O’Brien pair, rather David Wachman’s Probably who stayed on too stoutly for Cristoforo Colombo. Johnny Murtagh was out of luck in the Derby but had earlier won the Group 3 sprint on Definightly as well as the Listed Celebration Stakes on Sharestan.

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