In black and white Al Kazeem’s brushing aside of Camelot in Sunday’s Tattersall’s Gold Cup was a shock. The market suggested the Group One contest, held in Camelot’s back yard should have been a cake walk. Look a little closer though, at the formbook and it should’ve given you a more accurate picture. Aidan O’Brien’s 4-11f shot had merely more than three pounds in hand of the British raider on official ratings, but yet was significantly shorter in the betting. On race day the on track prices were substantial in their difference, but were even greater when the first ante-post book opened. Paddy Power were to the fore in getting the maiden market up on the race and went 1-3 Camelot, 3-1 Al Kazeem. This can be expected given the field number decreased, but the market still had it wrong on the day. The final SPs overrated Camelot and his chances. You may say it’s easy with hindsight, but Camelot wasn’t/isn’t the horse many thought, as highlighted in a previous piece (http://drracing.net/?p=451) on this site and his loss on Sunday has now shown his true ability.
Camelot’s failings are not the most significant story to come from the race. The most interesting development was, had breeders, punters and the sport’s fans been led down the garden path by Aidan O’Brien? Or maybe was it just a case of the master of Ballydoyle getting it wrong? Maybe something else?
Last season comments like “he’s the best I’ve ever trained” were heard coming from the lips of O’Brien. A staggering comment with huge weight behind it given some of the greats that have gone through the Wexford man’s hands at his Tipperary base. Dylan Thomas, Galileo, George Washington, Giant’s Causeway, High Chaparral, Rock Of Gibraltar, Rip Van Winkle just some of the big names in a blast from the past. Closer to 2013 Excelebration, the highest rated horse O’Brien ever trained, and So You Think are others to add to an extensive and classy list. We were told all aforementioned stars played second fiddle to Camelot in terms of ability. On what we’ve since seen it’s hard to believe Camelot would even claim a box of the seven or eight in Ballydoyle’s famous Millionaire Row in the old main yard. We know Camelot doesn’t rank close to some of Aidan’s greats, but what led the master horseman to say such things? That is a question I’d like answered. There are a number of possibilities for me.
One, in his homework Camelot is simply breath-taking. The Coolmore/Ballydoyle operation are avid followers of sports science, an area which now holds massive importance and is ever growing in racing. State of the art GPS systems are now part of the Ballydoyle way with any one horse having its distance, speed and heart rate monitored (among other things) during exercise riding and/or work – with all data being stored. Is it plausible that the figures on Camelot were simply irresistible at home with him failing to show his true ability on the track? It’s something only O’Brien can answer.
Two, maybe O’Brien simply got it wrong? Again it’s something only he can answer, but he has come clean in the past when he feels he didn’t get something right. At last year’s Royal Ascot meeting he stated he felt he didn’t train Aussie superstar So You Think to the best of his ability. Many feel this may have been a smokescreen for breeding gains though which leads me into the third possibility.
Three, was this talk of Camelot being the best simply a hype job to add extra on to his opening stud fee? Not that he cares about us, but many in the world of twitter and those among the media feel this is the obvious answer. This necessarily not making it right though. I must say I find it hard to believe Aidan can get a horse so wrong. I also honestly find it hard to believe he’d lie given he seems such a nice, down to earth and genuine man. Was O’Brien the pawn used by Coolmore to help them succeed in achieving a possible goal, inflating a fee of a future stallion? After all, its business and Aidan does work for John Magnier and co.
It really is a hard one to weigh up and only Aidan O’Brien himself has the answers. We may learn these in time, but one thing is for sure, Camelot is not the best O’Brien has ever trained and whatever the reason for those comments the racing public will now tread carefully on future opinions expressed from the Irish champion trainer.