It wasn’t pretty but Camelot proved that he has bundles of heart to match his undoubted class as he dug deep to fend off the persistent challenge of Born To Sea to land the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh on Saturday night.
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In ground conditions that his jockey Joseph O’Brien described as ‘heavy and sticky’ the 2000 Guineas and Derby winner landed his third classic of the season and set himself up for a tilt at the English St Leger and a chance to become the first horse since Nijinsky to land the Triple Crown.
Sent off at the skinny odds of 1/5 Camelot was settled at the rear of the field under Joseph O’Brien as his stablemate Astrology took the five runner field along at a steady gallop with the John Oxx trained Akeed Mofeed also sitting handy.
Turning for home Camelot was travelling well within himself as was Johnny Murtagh and Born To Sea who stalked Camelot into the straight.
O’Brien was the first to commit and sent Camelot on with two furlongs to go and he quicken up in impressive fashion. Murtagh however was not going down without a fight and pushed Born To Sea after Camelot and it looked for a brief second that the favourite might be in trouble.
However Camelot dug deep and pulled out that little bit more to hold off Born To Sea by two lengths at the post to give Aidan O’Brien his seventh successive Irish Derby win and his tenth overall.
Speaking after the race a relieved O’Brien said “I’m delighted. The ground was a huge worry and it’s really down to the owners that Camelot ran at all. I don’t think I would have had the courage to run him on that ground.
“He has been tested in every way. He showed at Newmarket that he had the speed and at Epsom he showed that he had the stamina. Today he needed everything to win.
“Our grass gallop at Ballydoyle has been flooded so Camelot has not seen the grass since Epsom so we are delighted.”
Joseph O’Brien was equally delighted. “His wheels were spinning out there. He was hating the ground every step of the way. He is a great horse and has a big heart which he needed out there today.”