Ballydoyle team set for biggest day

  • By: Dave Ord
  • Last Updated: September 11 2012, 10:18 BST

The first sight to greet visitors upon Ballydoyle is a statue of Nijinsky. He could soon have company.

Camelot: Bids to join illustrious company at Doncaster on Saturday

Saturday's Ladbrokes St Leger offers Camelot the opportunity to follow in his illustrious hoofprints and become the first colt to win the Triple Crown for 42 years. No wonder the place is on edge.

O'Brien at home is a more relaxed figure than when confronted by the press pack on the racecourses of the world but even so this was not a man at ease.

We were asked to walk slowly up the gallop to where Camelot would emerge for the first of two canters, both three or four furlongs, both routine. Both incident free.

From there the master of all he surveys rattled off the names of the horses working in the distance and questioned each rider as they returned. All happy, all pleased.

Then we talked Camelot - well Aidan did - and the undisputed champion of the Classic crop is now a heavyweight in every sense.

"He wasn't a horse that fluctuated much in his weight but after his break following the Irish Derby, when we started training him again, his weight started to increase which is very unusual. He's probably going to run a good bit heavier than he's done for his other three runs on Saturday," he explained.

"Three-year-olds usually mature towards the end of the year and as a four-year-old. They don't change too much early in the season. Staying horses don't bulk up as much as middle-distance horses. Camelot's built more like a miler, he's round and not angular, long or lean. He's round and strong and that's a little thing you have in your mind."

There's nothing in Camelot's mental make-up to give his trainer cause for concern, in fact quite the opposite.

O'Brien said: "He's a very independent thinker, very sharp minded and intelligent. He's very relaxed now, from day one everything was concentrated on keeping him relaxed.

"If in a barn of 40 horses, some horse starts messing and what usually happens is the whole barn will go mad. Camelot wouldn't, he's very independent. Most horses need others with them when they walk off but he doesn't - he's fine by himself. He doesn't look for company. He leads by example, makes up his own mind up about things."

The Coolmore team had registered the name Camelot long before parting with 550,000 guineas at Newmarket in the October for 2010 for the son of Montjeu who now carries it.

"We knew that Sue (Magnier) had the name for ten years, since the last Derby winner. We didn't influence her. She'd get information from everybody, see the horse and make her own mind up. It's a mystical name and everything about this horse has been that.

"He's different, he looks different, everything about him is different. There's a different vibe around him, he's a different character, he's not like the normal horse made of flesh and blood, there's an aura around him. From day one when we went over to the sales to see some of the horses the lads were whispering about him. That's how highly everyone thought about him even at that stage. Everyone saw it, everyone at the sales knew.

"We were dreaming about this horse for a long time, probably before he even ran at Leopardstown. He was doing some exceptional things, and we didn't intend running him so early. When we did we didn't want to carry on and go through all the two-year-old races. We gave him a break and he was just ready to run in the Racing Post Trophy but the work had been exceptional.

"I remember his second last piece of work before Doncaster. Daddy Long Legs had won the Royal Lodge and Camelot beat him 25 lengths. We knew it was either a bad Royal Lodge or this horse was something very different!"

But for all the background stories, the enthusiasm over what he's done before, there's no disguising Saturday presents Camelot with his sternest test.

Lester Piggott was aboard Nijinsky for his historical campaign of 1970 and listening to the great man at the Curragh on Sunday brought home to O'Brien just what they're asking Camelot to do.

"I heard Lester saying the Leger is nearly two miles, so we're asking a Guineas winner to run way beyond his comfort zone," the trainer mused.

"They nearly have to be Gold Cup horses to get the Leger trip. When you go beyond the mile-and-a-half they have to have the extra stamina to cope. We ran a lot of horses in the Gold Cup who failed before Yeats came along. Some horses go there, it takes so much out of them, they never go back.

"But that's what the Triple Crown is. It's a marvellous - the full test of a three-year-old. We've had lots of horses here over the years who've failed the test, not got to the final exam or we never dreamed of asking them to sit it as we didn't think they had any chance of passing it.

"Lester reminded me on Sunday Alleged got beat in the St Leger and went on to win two Arcs. He said they felt he came too early at Doncaster but the filly (Dunfermline) was just too good on the day. It shows just what a test the Leger can be."

Camelot will be joining esteemed company if he wins Saturday's Ladbrokes St Leger and he's 1-3 with the sponsors to do just that. Nothing is being taken for granted at Ballydoyle, but nothing left to chance either. It's going to be a long week for those closest to the horse but one they'll never forget. Here's to a very happy end to it.