Camelot must stand ground
Irish Derby Day should be one of the highlights of the Irish sporting calendar and while in recent years it may have been overshadowed or just lost some of its appeal, today's renewal should bring it right back up there with the inclusion of Aidan O'Brien's Camelot.
The master of Ballydoyle will bid to win his 10th Irish Derby as the race nestles into an evening slot for the first time and Camelot bids to emulate the great Nijinsky by adding the blue riband event of Irish racing to his wins in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby.
Today's short-priced favourite is the star attraction as he makes what is likely to be his only outing in Ireland this season ahead of a possible tilt at the English Triple Crown later on this year.
There is no doubt that Camelot is very likely to make it five from five in today's Dubai Duty Free-sponsored showpiece and the colt has been described as "unique" by his trainer O'Brien.
O'Brien said yesterday; "He's been special all along. He won the Racing Post Trophy last year, then he was very impressive in the Guineas and in the Epsom Derby which was his last start.
"He's always shown a lot of speed, a lot of class, a lot of courage, so he's just one of those unique horses that comes along very rarely."
The ground at the Curragh for the opening night of the Derby Festival was last night described as soft, heavy in places, and it is only the testing underfoot conditions that concern the trainer.
"Camelot is a very good action horse. He obviously won the Guineas on slowish ground but it was lovely, fast ground at Epsom. We would obviously have to have concerns if it went very soft and it is not ideal and the more it dries out, the better it is for him."
The O'Brien partnership of Aidan and Joseph did eventually get their Derby weekend off the ground as Warwick Avenue claimed the final race at HQ yesterday.
At the fourth time of asking, the colt managed to open his account in impressive fashion.
As well as Camelot in today's feature contest, the Ballydoyle outfit will be hoping to enjoy earlier success with George Vancouver in the first.
The colt was a beaten favourite first time out, but should put the experience of that run to good use when lining up against nine other two-year-olds.
While in the Dubai Duty Free Railway Stakes, Cristoforo Colombo is a warm order to build on his run at Royal Ascot just last week and return to winning ways in this Group Two over six-furlongs.
A competitive field of 14 is due to face the starter for the Paddy Power Sprint and after her father Con Collins trained so many big winners on Derby Day at the Curragh, Tracey Collins will be hoping her Artic can defy top weight and follow up his Navan success and a previous course and distance win to oblige at a big price.
Michael Halford enjoyed a double last night as his Regulation won the Sycamore Lodge Equine Hospital Maiden before the apparent second string of the Aga Khan's two, Massiyn, held off 5/2 favourite Vedani in the Silken Thomas Handicap.
John Oxx did begin proceedings with a maiden winner for His Highness when Sinaniya put in a very likeable display to just hold on in the two-year-old fillies' maiden under Johnny Murtagh.