Judge might Just be the start
Camelot is upset in Tattersalls
Jamie Spencer onboard Just the Judge (red colours) on his way to winning the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh yesterday. Photograph: Inpho
Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien, European racing’s traditional superpower team, had to endure their superstar colt Camelot getting a long-odds-on drubbing at the Curragh today.
On the same afternoon, they had to watch on as Just The Judge delivered classic success to their new big competition in the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas.
With Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai-based Godolphin increasingly beleaguered by controversy, it is Qatar Racing, the brainchild of Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and his two brothers from the Qatari royal family, who could kick on with a vengeance from hitting this classic bullseye. Already possessed of a large team of racehorses throughout Europe, and Jamie Spencer as retained jockey, 23-year-old Al Thani continues to splash out financially and has bought the big German hope, Chopin, who will line up in Saturday’s Epsom Derby.
Just The Judge though will always be his maiden classic winner, and an impressive one at that, justifying favouritism in style from the 40-1 outsider Rehn’s Nest yesterday, and leaving Spencer with the contented air of a man who has fallen on his feet.
The jockey has travelled a far from straight-forward since bursting on the scene with an Irish 1,000 Guineas win on Tarascon in 1997 as a callow 17-year-old – including a torrid year as number one jockey to O’Brien – but a third win in the race yesterday was nothing he hadn’t expected.
“On her Newmarket form, I thought it was her race to lose and it worked out really well,” said Spencer who diverted praise to trainer Charlie Hills, securing his first Group 1 victory in a race his father Barry won twice in the 1990s.
Hills grasped the significance of the win for the owners. “They’ve been fantastic in the last few years and have been a great support to the sport worldwide.” Hills nominated the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot next for Just The Judge.
Camelot continues to remain something of an enigma after getting turned over by Al Kazeem in the four-runner Tattersalls Gold Cup. “He got a bit tired inside the last furlong. But it’s the first time he’s had a real race since his big operation,” O’Brien said of Camelot’s length and a half defeat.
O’Brien did saddle a couple of winners, including the Royal Ascot possible Leading Light who made all in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes.