Camelot lights up Derby day with regal performance


AT THE court of Camelot, there can only be one king.

Given the eye-wateringly short odds of 1-5, all trainer Aidan O’Brien’s great three-year-old seemingly had to do was turn up for Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.

Making an appearance is what he did, and in some style, despite O’Brien’s agonising concerns over the very soft ground. The champion trainer said Camelot would not even walk out on the surface in which he was expected to win Ireland’s premier flat race.

Heavy rain had fallen on the course over the last couple of weeks. But on Derby day it held off until after the racing, just about. It was officially described as soft, but was riding on the side of heavy in stretches.

English heavy ground was only Irish soft ground, O’Brien explained. But the going was “really, really extreme ground”. He withdrew Camelot’s biggest challenger and stable mate, Imperial Monarch, from the race for this reason.

The nod concerning Camelot’s participation came from Aidan O’Brien’s wife, Anne Marie, who tweeted in the early afternoon that the colt would take his chance. The Group One feature would have been seriously devalued had Camelot not participated.

Everybody was happy except her husband, who feared his 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby winning colt would not go in the ground.

In normal circumstances he would be withdrawn, but Camelot is no ordinary racehorse and the Irish Derby no routine race. For the sake of “everybody”, admitted O’Brien, he had to run.

As John Magnier, with a nod to the expectant sponsors, said, it would be “like the tail wagging the dog” had he not featured in the race.

The crowds were eight deep in the parade ring before the start, all there to take a look at the latest Irish racing champion.

O’Brien’s unbeaten stable star started slowly in a field of just five runners. He was pushed all the way, but eventually won with two lengths to spare from the John Oxx-trained Born to Sea.

The latest Ballydoyle victory marked yet another triumph for teenage jockey Joseph O’Brien, son of Aidan, who has now won the Epsom and Irish derbies just after his 19th birthday.

Some 22,311 punters turned out for Derby day, 502 more than last year. This was a crowd that pleased the organisers given the prevailing economic and meteorological conditions.

The racing was followed by Irish pop thoroughbred Ronan Keating, who performed for the crowd at Mr Magnier’s request.

“It’s not primarily my audience,” said Keating. “There’s a racing crowd here too; you have to give them stuff you hope they are more familiar with.” So the singer obliged and threw in a few covers to keep the crowd happy.

A chilly breeze made life uncomfortable for the 200 women competing for the best-dressed lady competition.

It was a bitter-sweet day for the best dressed lady, model Caoilinn Taylor McGlade. On Saturday morning she left her sister Joanna, who is emigrating to the United States, at Dublin airport.

She and her mother decided to go to the Curragh to cheer themselves up.

Her all-white ensemble of an LK Bennett dress and hat from Irish milliner Edel Ramberg was teamed with gloves and the umbrella bought for her in Paris by her mother.

“She loves dressing me like a little doll,” said Ms Taylor McGlade who is six months pregnant with her first child. The best-dressed lady lives in Goa, India, with her Irish hotelier husband.

She admitted to being “gobsmacked” to have won, not least given the prizes on offer included a €5,000 voucher from sponsors Boodles.

Among those who turned up for Saturday’s Derby included Irish rugby internationals Peter Stringer and Gordon D’Arcy.