Camelot, a horse that may become a legend

14 September 2012 - 02:05 By Mike Moon
Mike Moon.
Mike Moon.

Camelot is the place of Arthurian legend and the very name so enchanted Sue Magnier that she booked it with racing authorities as the moniker of a horse.

But not just any horse. It would have to be a special creature to be named Camelot. So Sue waited. For 10 years. Eventually, her husband John, boss of Ireland's Coolmore racing operation, bought a colt that fitted the bill.

Didn't he just? Unbeaten in five races, Camelot has become a potent young knight in the kingdom of the turf. Tomorrow, he might wear a crown.

Okay, so Frankel sits on the throne right now, revered by all who sit at the Round Table of racing. But tomorrow Camelot will try to do something magical, like Merlin; something no horse has done for 42 years - win the St Leger at Doncaster and claim the fabled Triple Crown of three-year-old classics.

Four-year-old Frankel is reckoned by many to be the best thoroughbred ever and will surely be named the UK's 2012 Horse of the Year. But, in the points standing for that title (which can be overridden by the public vote), Camelot is currently equal with him.

That's an amazing situation, given the clamour about Frankel following his four breathtaking victories this year.

For his part, Camelot has won the first two Triple Crown legs - the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby - and the Irish Derby.

After the St Leger, Camelot may go to Paris to contest the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October - a race Frankel's connections have dodged in favour of an easier track that will be his swan song in Ascot's Champions' Stakes a fortnight later. But Camelot might also pitch at Ascot, to take on Frankel for the first and only time.

Could we have a quick "best ever" turnaround?

That's dreaming though. Tomorrow, it is the fateful sword of truth for Camelot, his trainer Aidan O'Brien and son and jockey Joseph O'Brien.

At the gates of O'Brien's yard in Ireland stands a life-sized statue of Nijinsky, the last horse to win the Triple Crown. His trainer in 1970: Vincent O'Brien, Aidan's father.

The Triple Crown is a rarity because it demands uncommon versatility to win over the speedy 1600m of the Guineas and, four months later, find the stamina to stay 2937m in the St Leger.

That Camelot is uncommon is evident from his being odds-on to break the hoodoo and become a bronze companion piece to Nijinsky at Ballydoyle.

Incidentally, Nijinsky was owned by American mining tycoon Charles Engelhard, well-known in South Africa in the 1960s, including at its racecourses. He owned Durban July winner Numeral, not to mention Hawaii, who excelled locally and in the States, and later sired an Epsom Derby winner.

Another aside: Nijinsky's father, Northern Dancer, is Camelot's great-grandfather on his paternal side and a great-great-great grandfather on his mum's side.

TURFFONTEIN, TOMORROW: PA - 2 x 2,8 x 2,9,14 x 6,10 x 5 x 2,4,5 x 6,7 (R72)