'Rags to riches story' - Shaquille has been named horse racing's Sprinter of the Year for Europe
Julie Camacho’s dual Group One-winning stable star beat off competition from fellow White Rose horses Highfield Princess – last year’s Cartier Sprint award winner – recent QIPCO Champions Sprint victor, Art Power, and Epsom-trained Live the Dream – who won the Coolmore Nunthorpe at York.
"It was a nice surprise and a lovely evening,” Camacho told The Yorkshire Post of the Dorchester Hotel event.
"What made it so special for Steve [Brown, Camacho’s husband and assistant] and myself was what it meant to Martin [the horse’s breeder] and Tina Hughes.
"We didn’t go with any expectations. I thought Highfield Princess would win it, so it was really nice.
“It is a real rags to riches story. Martin has put a hell of a lot of money into racing over the past 30 years and it is nice that he is now reaping the rewards, to be honest.”
It was an eventful season for Norton-based Camacho’s speedster, who was recently retired to stud after helping her become the first woman to win £1million prize money in a season.
Having won three of his four races as a two-year-old, he finished last in the Acomb Stakes at York in his other outing after pulling too hard over seven furlongs.
A victory last December at Wolverhampton was supposed to prepare him for the The All Weather Championships at Newcastle on Good Friday, but he refused to go in the stalls for the six-furlong renewal.
That prompted his handler to call in a stalls expert, Craig Witheford, who worked with the horse to iron out his issues in the starting gates.
And Shaquille promptly found his form on the track again, as wins at Newmarket and Newbury followed in May, before he landed his first Group One at Royal Ascot in June.
Despite blowing the start, he produced a superb run under Oisin Murphy to defeat the highly-fancied favourite, Little Big Bear, to give Camacho and Brown their first top level success.
Shaquille struck gold again in even more stunning fashion in the July Cup at Newmarket the following month, rearing up in the stalls before running freely under Rossa Ryan but still having the speed and stamina to hold off the closing pack for a famous win.
His bid to follow fellow Malton horse, John Quinn’s Highfield Princess – the pair work the same gallops in the town – by winning a hat-trick of Group Ones in a season ended in disappointment when the 11-10 favourite finished stone last in the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.
Although connections could not find anything wrong with the Polo-loving Shaquille – who was named after basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal – he was not seen again.
A planned run on Champions Day was abandoned after the Charm Spirit colt failed to satisfy the Camacho team in his final spin and he bowed out as the winner of over £782,000 in prize money.
Shaquille will be the first stallion to stand at Leeds businessman Steve Parkin’s new Dullingham Park stud, which is near Newmarket.
Camacho said: “As disappointing as it is that he is no longer going to be with us it is going to be great to see his next career as a stallion.
"He was slightly off before Ascot and with the ground being bottomless we just felt it wasn’t worth the risk. He’s absolutely A1 and is being a pain in the backside because he is bored! It was a commercial decision. He’s going to be the flag bearer at Dullingham which is very exciting and should be ready in about ten days for him.”
Shaquille was also nominated in the Three-Year-Old Colt award, while Leyburn’s Karl Burke was represented by Fallen Angel and Darnation in the Two-Year-Old Filly category.
Arc winner Ace Impact was Horse of the Year, while York’s Juddmonte International winner, Mostahdaf, was named the Older Horse of the Year.