Updated on 09/17/2012 1:56PM

St. Leger Stakes: Encke denies Camelot a sweep of English Triple Crown


DONCASTER, England – The cheers that greeted Derby and 2000 Guineas winner Camelot as he loped past the finish post on his way to the start for Saturday’s classic St. Leger Stakes turned to stunned mumbles some 10 minutes later, after chances for the first English Triple Crown winner in 42 years went down by three-quarters of a length at the hands of the 25-1 longshot Encke carrying Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin blue.

Before a sellout crowd of more than 31,000 at Doncaster, bathed in warm, sunny Yorkshire weather after three days of clouds and rain, Camelot was attempting to emulate the Triple Crown success of Nijinsky in 1970 and 13 others before him in sweeping the English 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, and the St. Leger.

But whether or not the pace was false or the trip unlucky or the journey of about 14 1/2 furlongs just too far, the odds-on Camelot ended up second best to a horse he outclassed badly on paper, and now must be listed alongside Cotherstone (1843) and Ladas (1894) as colts who finished second in the St. Leger – a race first run in 1776 – after winning the first two jewels in the crown.

Aidan O’Brien, Camelot’s trainer, was kicking himself afterward for not entering a pacemaker that he felt would have assured a quicker run through the first half of the race. As it was, Camelot found himself at the back of the nine runners on a modest pace with Main Sequence, who had missed the break.

“That’s exactly where I would have wanted him to be going this distance,” O’Brien said. “My first thought though was that it was a steadily run race after going a couple of furlongs, and Joseph couldn’t do anything about it.”

O’Brien was referring to jockey Joseph O’Brien, the trainer’s 18-year-old son, who was too distraught in defeat immediately after the race to deal with the press. That left most of the talking to Mikael Barzalona, Encke’s jockey, who at age 21 was winning his second English classic after taking the 2011 Epsom Derby aboard Pour Moi.

Barzalona, who upset the Dubai World Cup with Monterosso earlier this year, gets high marks for taking the race to Camelot when the serious running began halfway down the long Doncaster stretch.

At that point, O’Brien had been waiting for a clear path off the rail with the heavy favorite. But Encke and Barzalona, racing alongside and just ahead, beat Camelot to daylight and struck for home.

“I knew Camelot was on the inside and could see he had difficulty navigating,” Barzalona said in describing the final quarter-mile. “I asked my horse to go, and he went very quickly.”

Camelot tried to answer, but appeared slow to change gears, unlike his electrifying kicks in the one-mile Guineas and 1 1/2-mile Derby. It was only in the shadow of the line that Camelot made it as close as he did, just catching Encke’s flank, while Michelangelo, one of three John Gosden runners, finished third, three lengths farther back.

“The favorite was unlucky,” said Gosden, who was gunning for his third straight St. Leger victory. “If he’d gotten out when he wanted to, he would have won by 1 1/2 lengths.”

Encke is an American-bred son of Kingmambo who has been in the mix of European 3-year-olds not named Camelot taking turns beating each other all season long. Trained by Mahmood al Zarooni, Encke was third to Thought Worthy in the recent Great Voltiguer, but his St. Leger performance more closely resembled his close second to Noble Mission in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, when he opened daylight and gave way grudgingly.

Still, the 2012 will be remembered as the race Camelot lost.

“I saddled Alleged in the St. Leger when I worked for Vincent O’Brien, Nijinsky’s trainer,” Gosden noted. “He won two Arcs, so you know he was a good horse. But a quality horse can be beaten in the St. Leger, and Alleged was beaten that day by the Queen’s filly Dunfermline.”

Aidan O’Brien pointed to the key moment in the stretch as making the difference.

“When the gaps came, the winner was in probably a handier position and was gone,” O’Brien said. “When Camelot got out, he just stayed on rather than quickened up. But that was always liable to happen, because we were running him a bit farther than his distance. That’s the way it is, and well done to the winner.”

O’Brien added there was no decision yet on whether or not Camelot would run as a 4-year-old, but at the end of the day Saturday it hardly mattered.

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jonathan yarde More than 1 year ago
Isn't that exactly what I said?
jonathan yarde More than 1 year ago
BTW Russell it's actually over 4 months from the Guineas to the Leger.
owenjamesja More than 1 year ago
I saw the race and thought Camelot was poorly ridden and would have won handily with a more aggressive ride. Now since Americxa's Breeders Cup series really has no true star power, why not bring Camelot over the Pond and prove once and for all how great he is?
jonathan yarde More than 1 year ago
Camelot has so far proven himself to be a very, very good racehorse, but I would hesitate to place the "great" tag on him as yet. Yesterday at Doncaster, he attempted to join the list of legends of the game, by becoming the first horse, since the great Nijinsky in 1970, to win the English Triple Crown. He could very well have done so under a more judicious ride by jockey Joseph O'Brien. A St. Leger win would also have been sweet for his trainer, Joseph's father Aidan, who would have once and for all emerge from the ghostly shadows of the former master of Ballydoyle, the legendary Vincent O'Brien (no relation) who also happened to be the trainer of Nijinsky. I've replayed the video of the race over and over again, and posted the following comments on another website that had a blog on the result and its meaning to British racing: Both Encke and Camelot ran the better part of the race hemmed in on the rail with the favorite about 2 lengths behind Encke. There was a point at the top of the stretch at the 4 furlong pole when Encke’s jockey, Barzalona, moved one path off of the rail, and Joe O’Brien, instead of following, moved alongside electing to stay on the rail. At the 3F pole there was a gap in between Encke and the third place finisher, Michelangelo, that Camelot with his turn of foot could have gone through had O’Brien been behind and not inside of Encke. The race was lost here as he was made to stay inside another half furlong until forced to check and move to his right to avoid the weakening pacemaker, Dartford. In the meantime Encke improved his position and was poised to strike, while Michelangelo, ridden by Frankie Dettori, was alongside Camelot keeping him trapped in a pocket. O’Brien did not extricate himself until reaching the 2 furlong pole. Camelot was a little unbalanced by the maneuver, and took a few strides to level out. Meanwhile Barzalona cracked the whip and Encke responded and was 3 lengths in front of Camelot. Race over! I would take issue with Ray Sousa's comment that Encke was racing at his optimal distance. Where does he get the information to support this? Neither Encke nor Camelot had so far raced beyond 1 1/2 miles, and Encke had never won beyond 1 1/4 miles. The closest he came to winning at a mile and a half was at Glorious Goodwood where he lost the Gordon Stakes by a short head (nose) to Frankel's full-brother Noble Mission. Furthermore, if you are a follower of Dr. Steven Roman's dosage theory, Camelot's dosage is slightly better that Encke's. Camelot's Dosage Index = 0.94 and Center of Distribution = 0.16; Encke's DI = 1.05 and CD = 0.20. In assessing the Leger on pedigree, only Michelangelo and Ursa Major have better numbers, and only the latter, Guarantee and Dartford (in a pace making role for the Gosden-trained Masked Marvel) had ever gone beyond 12 furlongs prior to yesterday. Finally I'll address the difficulty in landing this Triple. In the early 70s I wrote a paper on the difficulty of landing the American Triple Crown vs. the English one. This was fresh after Secretariat's 1973 coronation, which I had witnessed in person at Belmont Park. I was in a better position than most to analyze this as I had also witnessed Nijinsky's Triple, while living in England. While the "tremendous machine" was winning the U.S. Crown for the first time in 25 years, it had been 35 years since Bahram preceded Nijinsky in accomplishing the English triple. I concluded that the English version was harder to win because of the greater variation in distances (1 mile to 1 3/4+ miles) and the length of time between races. Some may argue that the time factor is exactly why the US version is harder, but I contend that it's easier to keep a horse in top form over 5 weeks that it is to do over 4 months. Also there is greater variation in the tracks, the 2000 Guineas being run over a straight mile, then moving to the undulations of Epsom Downs, and then on to a galloping track like Doncaster.
Sam Shelby More than 1 year ago
Boy, I just figured out why I'm a self admitted mediocre horse player. I could never analyze all that.
jonathan yarde More than 1 year ago
If by mediocre you're referring to the wagering aspect then that would make 2 of us. I've been a student of the game for almost 50 years, but can hardly lay claim to being a successful gambler. I thought that Camelot would win, but I didn't see him as a lock. He looked vulnerable in the Irish Derby in which I bet the runner up Born To sea on top of him in the exacta, so there was no way that I would bet him at odds on in the Leger. The one I liked to win and place was Ursa Major, then I looked up at the TV screen and saw that Encke was 50-1 at that time. To me he became the value bet, as all of the other major players were close to each other on form. To cut a long story short, I ended up staying out of the race. The story of my betting life.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Really good analysis, and I like your honesty. These sites can have a lot of ego as it concerns wagering ability. I'm like you. I love the sport, love its history, like to engage in conversation about it, but I'm certainly not coming close to making a living playing the ponies.
jonathan yarde More than 1 year ago
Jordan, I have no ego concerning my wagering ability. My weakness being that I don't know how to pick and choose my spots. Like everyone else I thump my chest when I've "outplayed" my fellow punters. I have some fond memories of "big scores" my favorite being a $707 exacta at Hollywood Park on the Friday before the first Breeders' Cup in 1984. It was a 7F race won by NY shipper Basket Weave with Cordero finishing 2nd on a horse from CD whose name I forget. Had it twice, but the exactas were $5 minimum in those days. Then there are the ones that I picked but didn't bet; Sea Hero in the KY Derby was a kick in the head moment for me, although I made up for it when he won the Travers. My biggest disappointment came in the 1991 Breeders' Cup Sprint. I was unable to get thru on the phone to place my bet with NYRA, so I gave up with about 5 minutes to post and sped to my local OTB only to be shut out from placing a $10 exacta box on Housebuster, Pleasant Tap and Sheikh Albadou. If you think online wageringing is any better, just minutes before the 2008 BC Classic I started to place two $50 win and place wagers one on Raven's Pass and the other on Henry The Navigator. When I clicked the button to send the bet nothing happened. My laptop had lost the internet connection. I think you know how that race turned out. I could go on and on. C'est la vie! J.Y.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Thank you for the insightfulness, Jonathan. You wrote a very good analysis regarding Camelot and of the elusiveness of the American and English Triple Crowns.
jonathan yarde More than 1 year ago
Joy, I usually read the blogs and the comments, but shun the opportunity to join in the discussion, as many of the posts are just too silly to warrant a comment or reply. When it comes to European racing, however, I can't help but add my 3 pence, as many of the posters are unfamiliar with the aspects of European racing other than what they see in the Breeders' Cup. Also having spent most of my adult life living between Aqueduct and Belmont Park, and witnessing live and in person all 3 of the US Triple Crown winners of the 1970s, I believe that I can speak with some conviction. J.Y.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
hes a great horse trying to win at a distance that was just beyond his best,aginst a good horse at his optimal distance.and he came up a little short,had he received an absolutely perfect trip his class would have gotten him home.then again had this been at his optimal distance he would have had more of a kick and put his rival away.triple crowns are supposed to be dificult thats what makes them special,whats the pion of having a triple crown winner every few years?.its a challenge and it takes a truly great horse thats bred to stay a classic distance to do it,not just any very good horse or a horse with distance limitations.im glad they havent started shortening the distances to make it easier.im tired of seeing thourobreds that look like quarter horses in mad breakneck dashes to the first turn only to stagger home with their legs wobbly and their tongues hanging out gasping for the wire.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Camelot is still a great horse. Two out of three wins in the Triple Crown is something to be extremely proud of. It's difficult to win any race, no less win highly coveted stakes races. Losing the third by such a short amount does sting a little, but Camelot's connections can be mighty proud of all that Camelot has accomplished. The jockey is young, I think everyone is being a bit hard on him. The English Triple Crown is just as elusive as the American Triple Crown, it seems. Even more so.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Come on folks.. the kid is 18. Racing is racing. Getting beat by less than a length is nothing to hang your head about. He won the first two legs. Don't know where to watch these races but I'm pretty sure from the article he gave his best when he could run.
Jon More than 1 year ago
whatever his age (Cauthen did it at that age) the one time chance of a English triple crown was lost "Not by the horse being beaten" but several opportunity that a professional jockey committed. To put it simply at that distance the Jockey could not get the horse of the rail, further in the stretch he went more towards the rail.
rob More than 1 year ago
you could youtube them
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Thank you.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
It's on YouTube, Thomas. It was uploaded Saturday.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Thank you Joy.
Bamb Ezzy More than 1 year ago
Now the Euros can sympathize with the Yanks, those 2 out of 3 Triple Crowns really sting.
Steven More than 1 year ago
I couldn't agree more. For whatever the reason -jokeyship, stamina, the way the race unfolds-the last leg of either (St Leger and Belmont) is a killer. Let's not forget that the other horses were running to win. The whole object is to spoil the party, and Encke did so in superb fashion.
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bleck1022 More than 1 year ago
I'm guessing 2011 Breeders' Cup Turf doesn't ring a bell?
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Jon More than 1 year ago
are you kidding, at that distance & the time he got into the clear & had to get back into the rythm He should have lost by about 3 lengths. 3/4 of a length proves that although he lost fair and square the best horse did not win.
juliuso More than 1 year ago
Hey Aidan, Bring Camelot to California for the Breeders Cup Classic. That might be a fitting conclusion to a great campaign.
Brian Russell More than 1 year ago
He is too smart to run a son of soft turf sire Montjeu against Grade 1 dirt horses.