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St Leger preview

The English St Leger is all about Camelot this weekend isn't it? Ronan Groome, writer in the Irish Sunday Independent, seems to think so. Follow him @ronangroome20 or on his blog.

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The St Leger

How many horses have done the Guineas-Derby double since 1970? Easy. Nijinsky, Nashwan, Sea The Stars and Camelot. Of course the former-named, way back in 1970 was the only one to go onto Doncaster and complete the Triple Crown.

But riddle me this. During the same time span, how many horses have won the Derby and then gone on to compete for the oldest Classic race on the books at Doncaster? To my reckoning, and correct me if I’m wrong, but only two have. Shergar in 1981. Reference Point in 1987.

It seems a bit demeaning to the St Leger, the final Classic of the year, that Derby winners, who would most likely go off there-abouts odds-on to complete a Classic double, forgo that opportunity in search of short and long-term richer prizes.

This is of course is flat racing. The business. Money talks and the breeding market grimaces at a St Leger winner.

Tomorrow is different and the sense of romance surrounding the race is a welcome feeling. Yet if Camelot hadn’t got up to beat French Fifteen on the Rowley Mile at the beginning of the season, if Joseph O’Brien had delayed his challenge by a second or two, or indeed if his passage had met trouble, would we be talking about Camelot in the St Leger now? Most likely not.

The Triple Crown is just a title that sounds good but has never been valued highly through recent times and slightly beyond. If it was, horses like Mill Reef (1971), Roberto (1972) and Grundy (1975) who all finished second in the Guineas before going on to win the Derby, would have went on to the St Leger to showcase their ability to handle each distance at the highest level. In recent years the same can be said of Sir Percy (2006) and New Approach (2008) who both could have earned a consolation sort of Triple Crown, but preferred other engagements.

And it just seems like a further scorn of the St Leger that the only reason Camelot is there is because of a bid for a title rather than the race. That connections Nashwan and Sea The Stars turned their noses up at a Leger bid, also slightly demeans Camelot’s historic bid.

And away from the talk of a Triple Crown, on the enhancement of reputation, Camelot has much more to lose than gain tomorrow. He has already proven he is the king of his generation, but that that valuation readily goes along side the metaphor ‘big fish in a small pond’. The best of a bad lot.

But with the likes of Main Sequence and Thought Worthy to reoppose Camelot over a distance that offers a different challenge, there seems a worthy threat. Then you have the lurking, progressive types in Ursa Major, Michelangelo and the supplemented Guarantee, who as such, have yet to enter the pond and are therefore dangerous adversaries.

Of course Camelot is a 2/5 shot. He was a five-length winner of the Derby and he should win tomorrow. We all hope he does. But let’s hope that in doing so, he sets a trend for the future and that the St Leger can be seen as one of the principal targets for the Classic generation.

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