06/28/2012 4:27PM

Europe: Camelot towers over Irish Derby field


Aidan O’Brien has trained the winner of the Irish Derby for six years in a row, and among his three entrants for this year’s edition of the race is Camelot, currently the leading 3-year-old in Europe by a vast margin. The calculus seems crystal-clear: Camelot will win Saturday evening’s Group 1 race at The Curragh.

The only thing that could possibly stand between Camelot and Irish Derby success is the condition of the course. The Curragh was pummeled with heavy rain this week, and as of Thursday the course was labeled soft with heavy areas. Some drying could occur before the Saturday program, but the turf still figures to be the softest Camelot has yet encountered. And while there might have been more than course conditions against him on the day, Camelot’s closest call in his 4-4 career came in the English 2000 Guineas, Camelot’s only race on going worse than good.

Camelot is two-thirds of the way to the English Triple Crown, should his connections wind up pointing for the St. Leger Stakes in September. After winning the English 2000 Guineas, a one-mile race, by a neck with a late rush, Camelot dominated the mile-and-a-half Epsom Derby, winning by five lengths. He travels the same distance on Saturday at The Curragh and should, in the end, find little resistance from the six set to oppose him.

As good as Camelot has been this year, O’Brien has been better. Already this spring his stable has captured a bevy of Group 1 races: The 1000 and 2000 Guineas in England, the Irish 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks, and the Derby. And if Camelot somehow should falter, the O’Brien-trained Imperial Monarch would become the most likely winner. Imperial Monarch won his only start last year at 2 and his first start this year at 3 before enduring a rotten trip when finishing eighth of 20 in the French Derby. In Saturday’s race Colm O’Donoghue takes over riding duties from Joseph O’Brien, who has the mount on Camelot.