THE unbeaten Camelot heads 36 entries for this year’s Ladbrokes St Leger as the outstanding colt bids to become the first winner of the Triple Crown since the iconic Nijinsky in 1970.
Aidan O’Brien’s charge has swept aside the opposition in five starts and followed up a neck success in the mile 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in early May with a stunning victory in the Epsom Derby a month later.
If he prevails at Doncaster on September 15, the three-year-old son of Montjeu would enter the history books as only the 16th colt to win those two Classics and the St Leger, a one-and-three-quarter-mile stamina tests which has proved too great in the past for horses like the ill-fated Shergar.
On his previous visit to Town Moor, Camelot was sublime in winning the Racing Post Trophy last October – a performance that saw him crowned joint champion European two-year-old.
O’Brien, previously successful in the St Leger with Milan (2001), Brian Boru (2003) and Scorpion (2005), is responsible for 11 entries – nearly one-third of the field.
His possible cavalry from the Emerald Isle include Grand Prix de Paris scorer Imperial Monarch, Derby third Astrology, Father Of Science and the unexposed Chamonix.
Victory for any one of the Ballydoyle horses would also help O’Brien to complete an unprecedented clean sweep of the five English Classics in 2012.
As well as Camelot, the mercurial trainer landed the 1000 Guineas with outsider Homecoming Queen before 20-1 shot Was landed a controversial renewal of the Epsom Oaks – John Gosden’s The Fugue, victorious in York’s Musidora Stakes, was badly hampered.
O’Brien is not short of inspiration for the £550,000 race; a statue of Nijinksy, trained by namesake Vincent O’Brien and ridden by Lester Piggott, stands proudly at the entrance to the world-famous Ballydoyle stables.
The trainer has always spoken of his desire of having a horse good enough to warrant comparison with Nijinsky.
This quest for greatness is made even more intriguing by the riding responsibilities on Camelot being entrusted to the trainer’s ridiculously tall teenage son Joseph – the 19-year-old’s weight means that this could be his last chance of St Leger glory after finishing fourth last year on Seville.
It will not, however, be a one-horse race – The Queen’s Estimate, a runaway winner at Royal Ascot last month, has been entered by Sir Michael Stoute.
Three of the last five renewals of the St Leger, first run in 1776, have been won by John Gosden, whose 2012 entries are headed by Great Heavens, the eye-catching winner of last Sunday’s Irish Oaks under William Buick. The stable’s other possibilities are Michelangelo, Shantaram, Dartford and Derby fourth Thought Worthy.
As such, Doncaster’s executive is already looking forward to a 30,000-plus sell-out crowd for the big race on September 15.
Managing director Mark Spincer said: “We are very excited that the 2012 Ladbrokes St Leger is panning out to be a moment in history.
“The quality and breadth of the entries is very pleasing. It is also excellent news to see an entry, Estimate, from Her Majesty The Queen and we would be delighted to welcome the owner at Doncaster.
“It is all systems go and we’ve experienced a surge in ticket sales since Camelot won the Derby and then again following his victory in the Irish Derby. A sell-out crowd is expected and plans are in place to deal with full capacity. We are in discussions with the council about expanding into additional areas if necessary.
“We are also looking forward to welcoming HRH The Princess Royal on the opening day of the St Leger festival on September 12 when she will support the Legends charity race in her role as patron of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.”
Sir Henry Cecil, whose four St Leger triumphs include Oh So Sharp, who landed the fillies Triple Crown in 1985, could run the Yorkshire-owned Thomas Chippendale.
This progressive colt beat stable-companion and fellow St Leger contender Noble Mission by half- a-length in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.
He is owned by tycoon Sir Robert Ogden, whose racing manager Barry Simpson disclosed yesterday: “He has come out of Royal Ascot in great shape. He’s an uncomplicated horse and I don’t think that we would have any concern about his stamina.
“He is continuously improving. Sir Henry started him off with a good education last season and we were a little late in starting him this season, due to the ground conditions and the fact that he had an eating problem.
“We have seen some good middle-distance performances this year and it wouldn’t matter who we came up against at Doncaster; we would fear them all because they wouldn’t line up if they didn’t justify being there. There is always a horse to beat – you can be a 1-8 chance in a maiden and still get beaten.”
It is a statement that Aidan O’Brien may not appreciate – Camelot, at long odds-on, could be one of the shortest priced favourites in St Leger history in a race that is set to be a classic.