The renewal of a partnership in yesterday’s Arc that had rarely worked together for the past five years prompted speculation in some quarters that it could become a regular sight during next year’s flat season. Frankie Dettori rode Camelot for the Aiden O’Brien/Coolmore team, a move which could further undermine his position as a key employee of rivals Godolphin.
The owners of Camelot played down any suggestion that they were lining up a move for Dettori’s services on a regular basis next year, with one of them, Derrick Smith, simply saying, “Frankie was available to us and we like to get the top jockeys when they are available.”
Camelot was sent off favourite for the race, and despite having Dettori on board, could finish no better than seventh place, demonstrating again that this is a particularly difficult race for three year olds to win. The jockey said afterwards, "It was just a long season took its toll. I had a perfect trip and he took me beautifully into the straight on the bridle, but just as soon I knew we were in trouble and in fairness to the horse he's been going for some time since the Guineas."
Although the Arc was not the primary end of season target for Camelot – that had been the failed attempt at the Triple Crown in the St Leger- victory would have gone some way to lifting the stock of a disappointing Classic generation this season. As it was, O’Brien still has tremendous faith in his horse, and maintains he is the best horse he has ever trained.
Of yesterday’s race he said, “He’s had a long hard season and it was very bad ground. It was sporting of the lads to have a go, but Joseph always said he wants better ground. I didn’t think so before the race, but the Leger obviously left its mark. He’s done an awful lot for a three year old.”
But O’Brien was keen to look forward to next season, and play up expectations of the horse. He said, “I always thought a mile and a quarter was his perfect distance but that he would get a mile and a half. Next year he could go a mile, a mile and a quarter, and probably a mile and a half. If he has a good winter he’ll be something unbelievable next year. I’ve no doubt he’s the best I’ve trained and everyone will see it next year.”
To me, that sounded like an attempt to paper over the cracks for a horse for whom expectation has overshadowed achievement. True, you can’t take away the fact that Camelot won the 2,000 Guineas and both the English and Irish Derby this year. But O’Brien’s claims were hedged with ifs and maybes, and it will take a lot next year to convince me that Camelot is anywhere near an outstanding horse.