05/24/2013 4:28PM

Europe: Camelot gets mild test in Tattersalls Gold Cup


Camelot’s 4-year-old debut May 6 in the Group 3 Mooresbridge Stakes didn’t establish him as an elite older horse, and even another victory on Sunday at The Curragh in the Tattersalls Gold Cup might not show where Camelot stands in the grand scheme of European middle-distance racing.

That’s because Camelot was one of only four horses entered in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, a Group 1 to be contested over one and five-sixteenths miles. The opposition, such as it is, includes Camelot’s Aidan O’Brien-trained stablemate, Windsor Palace, as well as Negotiate and Al Kazeem. Negotiate has lost his last eight starts while Windsor Palace is on a six-race losing streak, leaving Al Kazeem as the main competition. Five-year-old Al Kazeem makes his first start at the Group 1 level but has been first or second in eight starts since his career debut and exits a 2013 debut win in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes.

Four-year-old Camelot, once called by O’Brien the best horse he has trained, won his first five starts, including four Group 1 races: the Racing Post Trophy, the English 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, and the Irish Derby. Encke beat him in the St. Leger Stakes as Camelot tried to sweep England’s Triple Crown, and Camelot finished a humdrum seventh in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, his final start at 3.

Camelot’s off-season last fall quickly turned dire, as he suffered a serious bout of colic that required surgery, and that scare combined with his two defeats has left Camelot in a sort of form limbo. His Mooresbridge win was only workmanlike but probably served to shake off rust, and if Camelot is to be a player in the major races of the summer, he should comfortably take care of business Sunday. Joseph O’Brien has the mount, and with dry weather forecast for the weekend, The Curragh course is expected to be good-to-firm.

Just the Judge Irish 1000 choice

The first loss of Just the Judge’s career was good enough to make her the favorite to win the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas, co-featured on the Sunday card at The Curragh.

Just the Judge, a Lawman filly trained by Charles Hills, won her three starts last year at 2, capturing the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket in her season’s finale. She made her first start this season in the English 1000 Guineas and acquitted herself admirably, finishing second by a half-length to Sky Lantern while beating 13 others, and a similar showing Sunday would give her a great chance to land Ireland’s version of the 1000 Guineas.

Sunday’s race, which drew 16 runners, also includes the fifth-, sixth-, and eighth-place English 1000 Guineas finishers, respectively: Snow Queen, Maureen, and Masarah. Those fillies are fairly well exposed, and horses like Harasiya, Big Break, and Viztoria have a better chance to move forward Sunday.