Few racing milestones elude the trainer Aidan O'Brien but if Camelot tonight were to become the first horse for over 40 years to win the English Triple Crown it would gild an already remarkable career as a trainer.
Set in the leafy environs of O'Brien's Ballydoyle facility in Ireland stands a statue of Nijinsky, the Canadian-bred colt that in 1970 became the last horse to add today's St Leger to victories in the English 2000 Guineas and Derby.
Unlike the American Triple Crown, which consists of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, the English Triple Crown is run over far more varied distances.
The American Triple Crown comprises races ranging from between 10 to 12 furlongs and is staged over a period of just over a month.
In contrast, Camelot must add to his victories in the English 2000 Guineas in May over a mile and his English Derby blitz over a mile and a half in June with success over one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards tonight.
It is a searing question to ask an immature three-year-old colt. O'Brien understands the unique demands.
That Nijinsky was the last horse to even attempt the feat says a lot about the difficulty of the task.
In America, I'll Have Another this year was the first horse of 12 to have achieved the Derby-Preakness double to then miss a tilt at the Belmont since Affirmed became America's last Triple Crown victor in 1978.
The English Triple Crown is about going to the well three times over a period of four months, whereas in America it is about staying at full tilt for five brutal weeks.
"Some horses go there and it takes so much out of them they never go back there," O'Brien said. "Extreme distance can break hearts. The Triple Crown is the full test of the three-year-old."
America's three-year-old division has been decimated by injury. I'll Have Another's thrilling duels with Bodemeister at Churchill Downs and Pimlico contributed heavily to both horses having their careers cut short.
Camelot on the other hand has had a relatively easy time of it, racing against inferior opposition. Of the 33 horses he has beaten in his five victorious starts, only nine of them have subsequently won and just four of those have won a Group race.
There are signs, however, that Camelot is not cast from the same mould as any colt from this, or perhaps any other, Classic generation. Also, he appears to be maturing at a faster rate than is usual.
"He will be heavier for the St Leger than he has been going into any other race but with three-year-olds they often don't change until later in the year," O'Brien said.
"After his races, he just stands there and doesn't blow, which is very unusual. Most horse are a bit agitated after a race. I think he must have a tremendous heart and lung capacity."
Camelot's sire, Montjeu is a classic stamina influence and O'Brien revealed that in a training workout last season Camelot beat the UAE Derby winner Daddy Long Legs by an astonishing 25 lengths. Despite Camelot's obvious class, however, O'Brien is not taking the historic challenge lightly.
"None of us know what is going to happen tomorrow," O'Brien said. "Accidents never just happen, they are always caused along the line. There is always a list of circumstances which cause accidents."
Certify holds on to make it three victories on the trot
Mickael Barzalona was locked in a bitter struggle to the line aboard Mahmood Al Zarooni’s filly but the young Frenchman persuaded his mount to dig deep to deny Purr Along, ridden by Martin Dwyer, by a head.
It was a third consecutive victory for the daughter of Elusive Quality, and was a hat-trick of wins for the Dubai-based operation in the mile contest.
“It was a slow pace and it was a three-furlong sprint, which worked against her,” Simon Crisford, Godolphin’s racing manager, said. “She had to battle well and she did that and Mickael said she was really honest and tough at the finish.”
Certify could reappear in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in two weeks, or could head to France for the lucrative Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting in October.
Earlier in the day Godolphin’s Colour Vision struggled in the Doncaster Cup, which was won fittingly by John Dunlop’s Times Up.
Dunlop, the long-serving trainer to Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid, on Thursday announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season. Colour Vision finished seventh of the nine runners.
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