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Saturday 16 December 2017

O'Brien foiled in elusive Prix

Aidan O'Brien's search for a winner of the Prix du Jockey Club goes on as the master of Ballydoyle failed to claim the French Derby with Imperial Monarch at Chantilly yesterday in a race that contrasted with Camelot's Epsom Derby victory in so many ways.

With only nine runners in Saturday's historic Epsom showpiece, Joseph O'Brien didn't encounter any traffic problems as Camelot raced to an impressive second Classic of the season, but the same could not be said about Imperial Monarch, who endured a torrid passage in the 20-runner field.

Yesterday's French Derby was won by outsider Saonois, who returned a 33/1 shot of the mile-and-a-half feature in what was a roughly contested renewal.

O'Brien was caused notable interference as they turned into the straight and was shuffled back in the field before picking up and running on well -- albeit too late -- to trouble the winner.

There was to be no dream end to what was already the most memorable of weekends for the O'Brien clan as Aidan and Joseph became the first father-and-son combination to win the Epsom Derby.

Camelot went into the race with the highest of expectations and duly obliged despite being "very green", according to his rider.

A tilt at the Triple Crown of Flat Racing (2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger) is now under consideration by the powers of Coolmore with the first two legs in the bag and, if going in that direction, Camelot is already as short as 1/3 to be the first to win it since Nijinsky in 1970.

Camelot will now be the subject of much deliberation at Ballydolye this week as all concerned decide where to go next. With the St Leger at Doncaster on September 15, it would leave the horse only three weeks to recover for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which is on October 7.

The fact that the St Leger is never usually contested by a horse anywhere near the quality of Camelot may mean that connections will still attempt both races as the Derby winner will be far superior than any other three-year-old in the final Classic of the season.

More immediately, the question arises of whether or not Camelot will make the Irish Derby on the last day of this month.

The launch tomorrow evening of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, at which O'Brien is expected to be in attendance, will hopefully provide us with an ideal opportunity to find out more about his upcoming plans.

Camelot's inclusion at the Curragh for this year's Derby would prove the ideal boost to the race, which this year will be held on a Saturday evening for the first time.

Frustration

Imperial Monarch is likely to be another to head the shortlist for the Curragh after yesterday's unfortunate passage in France as O'Brien's frustration at cracking that race continues.

That is now 24 runners O'Brien has had in the Prix du Jockey Club, a race he has been represented in every year bar one since 1998, and still Super Pistachio finishing third in 2009 is the closest he has come to success.

As disappointing as yesterday was with the way the race panned out, there was still little to take the gloss off what was another magical weekend for a family who are simply living a massive dream.

With Frankel and Black Caviar both Royal Ascot-bound later this month (although sadly not in the same race) and Camelot taking all of the Classic generation before him, there is still an awful lot to look forward to in the remainder of this Flat season. Let's just hope that the Curragh is the next stop on Camelot's ladder.

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