Bobby Zen

It’s all about Camelot really, isn’t it? Twelve years on and some of us are still not over him being denied the Triple Crown, but every new Group 1 winner he sires helps to ease the pain a little. 

Though this column doesn’t like to hear a word against him, it is fair to say that Camelot has his detractors. His latest Classic winner Los Angeles (Ire) doesn’t look the most relaxed of horses but once the colt’s mind is engaged in his primary job of galloping then it is hard to fault his resolve and talent. He is also a mighty beast: deep brown and even deeper of girth. A tad burly when he appeared in the parade ring for the Cashel Palace Hotel Derby Trial at Leopardstown in mid-May, Los Angeles had tightened up a little by Epsom, where he suffered the only defeat of his five-race career so far in running third behind his stable-mate City Of Troy in the Derby. Now he is a Derby winner himself, of the Irish variety, after a jump-out-of-your-seat tussle with the Epsom runner-up Ambiente Friendly (Ire).

The Irish Derby has been much maligned of late. Some of the criticism is justified, though not all. But the first question that must be asked, of this and other top middle-distance races, is where on earth are all the eligible horses? 

They are out there somewhere, because plenty of this type are still being bred (for now) and not all are being hoovered up by overseas buyers, but why aren’t more of the larger stables entering and running in these races?

Not for the first time, Aidan O’Brien and John Magnier propped up the Irish Derby, releasing a statement from Ballydoyle last week detailing their four intended contenders which would ensure eight runners for the race, which in turn helped in the engagement of the race for punters on a World Pool day. We could well be in a similar situation for the Eclipse on Saturday, judging by the 11 to have stood their ground after Monday’s confirmations.

Ballydoyle is of course the most powerful stable in Ireland, if not the whole of Europe, and O’Brien duly landed his 16th Irish Derby victory. But he is not the only trainer of a large, well-bred string of horses. Some of his compatriots also enjoy decent support from major owners, along with a number of stables in Britain, and the fact that only one other Irish trainer – Ger Lyons – and three from Britain fielded an Irish Derby runner is frankly a pretty poor show. I don’t buy the argument that the Irish Derby is now so looked down upon that people no longer want to run in it. If you don’t want to have a shot at a Classic, given a suitable candidate, then you’ve really no business being involved with racehorses. 

Even if we take, as an example, a handful of the most popular sires who would be capable of siring a winner over 10 or 12 furlongs – Dubawi (Ire), Frankel (GB), Sea The Stars (Ire), Camelot (GB), Galileo (Ire) and Sea The Moon (Ger). This sextet alone covered just shy of 1,000 mares in 2020. Even allowing for the usual fluctuations of mares not getting in foal or producing a live foal, that’s still a lot of middle-distance blood for this year’s Classic crop, especially when factoring in the offspring of other capable sires. But where are they? 

Of course, only a small portion of each year’s foal crop will become top-class horses, but one wonders if the rise of the super-stables, in which a desire to keep stable-mates apart can be a factor in running plans, is starting to have worrying consequences for these crown-jewel races. 

Make no mistake, however, the Irish Derby is still a special race. You don’t need to take my word for it. After all, what do I know? But here’s someone who has had his finger on the pulse of the stallion market for longer than most of us have been legally allowed to have a bet.

John Magnier, who was at the Curragh on Sunday, spoke to David Jennings of the Racing Post about retaining the race’s distance. He said, “That’s important, especially since the French have changed their race and it’s not really the Derby any more… That’s the tradition and that’s the history. The thing is that you need to go from the top to the bottom, you don’t need all five-furlong races.”

Indeed. The Prix du Jockey Club cannot rightly be considered to be the French Derby since its shortening in distance to 2,100m in 2005. The real French Derby, the Grand Prix de Paris, takes place on July 13. That may come too soon for those who fought out the finish of the Irish Derby, but here’s hoping the race provides another enticing clash of the best three-year-old colts. 

France Galop is certainly doing all it can to encourage runners. In 2019, it launched the ‘Grand Free Pass’, which constitutes refunded entry fees for those horses already entered, or a reduced supplementary fee of €15,000 for the winners of nine qualifying races, including four in England, and for the first three home in the Derby or Prix du Jockey Club. 

This year, the Irish EBF Gowran Park Classic offered not just prize-money of €200,000 but also free entry to the Irish Derby for the winner (though in the event, the winning filly, Fleur De Chine (GB), did not take up this engagement). Clearly the teams at HRI and the Curragh have been thinking along similar lines to France Galop, and there is scope to expand on this incentive.

Stocking Up

The Camelot Group 1 weekend got rolling on Saturday when Bluestocking (GB) mowed down Emily Upjohn (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) on the rainswept Curragh. The Juddmonte filly is now a deserving winner at the top level after several near misses, including in last year’s Irish Oaks, and following a confidence-boosting six-length romp in the G2 Middleton Stakes on her first run of the season. 

Both Bluestocking and Los Angeles are out of mares by Dansili (GB), the former being a daughter of fellow Group 1 winner Emulous (GB), and Los Angeles being out of the unraced Frequential (GB). Now 10, the latter was picked up from the Godophin draft at the Tattersalls February Sale of 2017 for 48,000gns and has fully justified that outlay. For breeding partners Lynch Bages and Longfield Stud she has now produced three black-type performers all by Camelot. More than that though she has a pretty special pedigree, her granddam being Allez Les Trois, a group winner herself, half-sister to Urban Sea and King’s Best, and dam of the Prix du Jockey Club winner Anabaa Blue (GB).

Two more of Camelot‘s 12 Group/Grade 1 winners, Athena (Ire) and Sir Dragonet (Ire), are from the same family. Athena’s dam Cherry Hinton (GB) (Green Desert) is a daughter of Urban Sea, while Sir Dragonet is out of Sparrow (Ire), a mare by Green Desert’s son Oasis Dream (GB) and out of another of Urban Sea’s daughters in All Too Beautiful (Ire), who is a full-sister to Galileo.

Bluestocking completes a nice brace of Curragh Classic winners for Ralph Beckett with Juddmonte runners after the 2022 Irish Derby victory of Westover (GB). He too had previously finished third at Epsom.

Bravo to Menuisier

To revert briefly to the early pondering as to why some well-stocked stables are not so well represented in major races, this is certainly not a charge which could be levelled at David Menuisier. The Frenchman, who is based in the south of England at Guy Harwood’s Coombelands, has not swerved a challenge all year. He has saddled Tamfana (Ger) to run fourth and third in the 1,000 Guineas and Prix de Diane, beaten no more than a length on each occasion; his 50/1 shot War Chimes (Fr) was third in the Oaks, and Sunway (Fr) stayed on well to take close second in the Irish Derby. 

Devil’s Point (Ire) interrupted the flow of near misses by winning the G2 German 2,000 Guineas and, though it must be frustrating for Menuisier to have come so close in a number of Classics, we salute him for taking up the challenge with horses who are frequently confirming his judgement and ability by outrunning their odds. 

Ignore this trainer at your peril, particularly when considering that his string of around 70 is only a third of the size, perhaps less, of some of the major stables. 

Pride of Somerville Lodge 

Dubai Honour (Ire) led the charge  during a fruitful fortnight for William Haggas when claiming his third Group 1 victory in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on Sunday. The win was significant, it being his first top-level win in Europe and at 2,400m. In 2023, he won both the G1 Ranvet and G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney over 2,000m. A further two Group 2 wins and placings in Group 1 company in Hong Kong and on Ascot’s Champions Day mean that the six-year-old now has earnings in excess of £3.5m.

His sire Pride Of Dubai (Aus), a Group 1-winning son of Street Cry (Ire) from the family of Invincible Spirit (Ire) and Kodiac (GB), shuttled for only three years to Coolmore in Ireland, with Dubai Honour being a member of his first northern hemisphere crop. The stallion’s other three Group 1 winners to date have all come in Australia, where on Saturday his daughter Bella Nipotina (Aus) won her ninth race and third Group 1. She too is a testament to soundness and durability: also six, she has raced 49 times.

In what could just be put down to opportunity, given where he stands, it is perhaps worth noting that two of Pride Of Dubai’s Group 1 winners are out of mares by Montjeu (Ire) and High Chaparral (Ire) respectively, while two further group winners are also out of High Chaparral mares, as well as daughters of Hurricane Run (Ire), Galileo, and Teofilo (Ire). That’s seven of his 13 group winners from Sadler’s Wells-line mares. 

From Haggas’s Somerville Lodge stable, another six-year-old triumphed in a group race this weekend. Montassib (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) claimed the notable scalp of Kinross (GB) in the G3 Chipchase Stakes and was one of three winners on Saturday for the yard, which has celebrated 15 wins in the last fortnight, including Unequal Love (GB) (Dutch Art {GB}) at Royal Ascot. 

Prescott Not Farhh Behind

William Haggas’s former boss Sir Mark Prescott is another Newmarket trainer in good form. Following his Royal Ascot strike with Pledgeofallegiance (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), his Heath House Stables has also been represented by Tiffany (Ire), winner of the G3 Hoppings Fillies’ Stakes. 

Commentator Richard Hoiles wins our best tweet of the week award for quipping that Tiffany was “running just as fast as she can” (if you know, you know) and the four-year-old was part of a worldwide group-race double for her sire Farhh (GB) over the weekend. 

In Japan, Godolphin landed Fukushima’s G3 Radio Nikkei Sho with Farhh’s son Off Trail (GB), whose pedigree is every bit as regal as it is international. By a British-bred stallion whose female line represents a top German family, Off Trail is out of the American-bred Rose Trail (Kingmambo), herself a granddaughter of the brilliant Australian Group 1 winner and producer Bint Marscay (Aus) (Marscay {Aus}).

Not all Doom and Gloam

Back in 2017, a yearling filly then known as Gloam (Ire), by Galileo (Ire) out of Breeders’ Cup heroine Dank (GB) (Dansili {GB}), topped Book 1 of the October Yearling sale at Tattersalls when sold by Norris Bloodstock for 4 million gns to Godolphin. 

Bred by James Wigan, as was her dam, the filly’s name was changed to Maria Danilova (Ire) but disappointingly she never made it to the racecourse. However, she is now the dam of winner, with her first foal, Blessed Honour (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), having struck at Nottingham on Friday. The three-year-old filly must be held in some regard by her trainer Charlie Appleby as she has an entry for the G1 Yorkshire Oaks.

The family received another boost at Royal Ascot when Maria Danilova’s half-sister Doom (GB), who is also by Dubawi and was retained by Wigan, ran third in the G2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes having already won a French Listed race.


The post Seven Days: The Legend of Camelot  appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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