Aidan O’Brien is optimistic that Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Camelot possesses the stamina necessary to win the Investec Derby.
The Ballydoyle trainer is chasing a third victory in the Classic but his first in ten years. High Chaparral claimed the prize in 2002, 12 months after Galileo had broken his duck in the most coveted prize in Flat racing.
He admits to having been “humbled” many times in the intervening decade, which is why he is trying to keep a lid on the hype surrounding Camelot.
“You don’t know about Epsom until you go there” said O’Brien at Ballydoyle yesterday. “You worry about everything including the day, the atmosphere and going to the start.
“He behaved beautifully at the Guineas and is very relaxed and calm but as you would expect with a horse with that explosive burst of speed, he does have a lot of nervous energy in there.
“He kept on going when he was pulling up at Newmarket and I’ve not seen anything to suggest he wouldn’t get further.
“Being by Montjeu, you would have to be optimistic that he will stay, but there are also serious Danehill and Kingmambo traits in Camelot, and he has always been a horse with tremendous speed. However, I have not seen anything to suggest that he will not stay the trip at Epsom, but we won’t find out until the day.”
A self-professed “born worrier”, O’Brien was in relaxed form at yesterday’s press event, mock-warning racing photographer Pat Healy “don’t bring down Camelot anyway” as the snapper moved out on the gallops to take some shots of the colt doing some work.
Apart from the question mark surrounding the ability to see out 12 furlongs that applies to all horses targeted at the Derby, there is also the little matter of Epsom’s unique demands to take into account.
To that end, a replica of the track – and specifically a dummy version of Tattenham Corner built by the original Ballydoyle maestro, Vincent O’Brien – is of incalculable importance.
Camelot has been around regularly to get him accustomed to the dips and undulations, while the two Oaks candidates, Maybe and Kissed cantered it yesterday.
Maybe suffered her first defeat when third in the Qipco 1000 Guineas to stablemate Homecoming Queen but O’Brien saw enough there to suggest that an extra half-mile might not inconvenience her.
“We’re not sure but we always thought it would be in her grasp. She raced a little lazily all the way through the Guineas and still came home well. I didn’t think she was stopping.”
Meanwhile, O’Brien is looking forward to taking on superstar Frankel in Saturday’s Lockinge Stakes at Newbury with his recent recruit Excelebration.
The son of Exceed And Excel was beaten three times by Henry Cecil’s unbeaten colt last season when trained by Marco Botti but O’Brien, who revealed that he had done very little work on the colt ahead of his Gladness Stakes win last month, is confident that his new charge has improved.
He is fully aware of the difficulty of the task at hand though.
“We’re delighted to have a horse that’s good enough to compete in the race.
Marco did a great job with him. He’s a very relaxed horse at home so we were delighted with how he ran in the Curragh the last day.
“He’s a year older and has strengthened up. It will be interesting taking on Frankel and if you know his Achilles heel, I wish you’d let me know” he smiled.
O’Brien admits his son Joseph was lucky to escape serious injury after parting company with the ill-fated Furner’s Green in Sunday’s French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp.
The three-year-old flew home under the young rider to claim third in the Poule D’Essai Des Poulains, but broke a leg shortly after the line.
The young rider came out of the saddle but was unscathed.
“It could all have ended in disaster,” said the trainer. “We were all so sad for the horse, but Joseph was very lucky.”
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