By Andrew Caulfield
When I reviewed Camelot’s pedigree for the TDN in October 2011, following the first of his four Group 1 victories, I mentioned that several colts with names linked to the Arthurian legend had occasionally matched their namesakes’ fame. Sir Gallahad III had become America’s champion sire on four occasions, while Sir Tristram was champion sire in Australia five times in a six-year period. Of course Round Table was the name of America’s 1958 Horse of the Year and champion sire of 1972.
It’s still too early to suggest that Camelot is also destined to become a champion sire, but the signs are distinctly promising for this three-time Classic winner, who became Montjeu’s only Classic winner over a distance as short as a mile, when he landed the G1 2000 Guineas. Camelot was already leading the European second-crop sires before he enjoyed a sustained run of success with his 3-year-olds last week.
Friday saw the useful Merlin Magic take the competitive Esher Cup H. over a mile in a manner which suggests he has made plenty of progress from two to three. Then the Naas winner Hunting Horn finished a respectable third to Sevenna Star in the G3 Classic Trial at Sandown.
Sunday was even more rewarding. The Italian equivalents to the 2000 and 1000 Guineas saw Wait Forever win the colt’s race, the G3 Premio Parioli, while Stella di Camelot’s third in the G3 Premio Regina Elena suggests she could do even better in the Oaks d’Italia. Over at Longchamp, Camelot enjoyed further black-type success when the progressive Naturally High came from last to first to snatch victory in the Listed Prix de Suresnes over a mile and a quarter.
The Prix du Jockey-Club is now on Naturally High’s agenda and the Deutsches Derby must surely be the target for Alounak, Camelot’s third black-type winner of 2018. This colt landed the Listed Derby-Trial at Dusseldorf by six lengths and should be very much at home over a mile and a half. Other notable members of Camelot’s first crop are Alhadab, who was beaten only a head in the G3 Prix Noailles over an extended mile and a quarter on his 3-year-old debut, and Fighting Irish, who made great strides at two, when he ended his campaign with victory in the G2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte. There’s also the group-placed King of Camelot.
It appears that the foundations are being laid for an informative season from the Camelot 3-year-olds, which number nearly 150. I always had my fingers crossed that Camelot, who went so close to becoming the first British Triple Crown winner since 1970, would prove a worthy replacement for his exceptional sire, who was responsible for the magnificent total of four Derby winners.
Montjeu’s legacy also featured such stars as St Nicholas Abbey, Hurricane Run, Leading Light, Fame And Glory and Jukebox Jury, but today’s breeding industry doesn’t always take kindly to sons of a stallion who was responsible for two winners of the Gold Cup, three winners of the St Leger, three winners of the Grand Prix de Paris, plus winners of the Irish St Leger, Prix Royal-Oak and the Melbourne Cup. The Racing Post credits Montjeu’s progeny of an average winning distance of 11.8 furlongs, compared to Galileo’s 11.2 furlongs.
Coolmore reads the market better than most and they didn’t even attempt to woo flat breeders to use Scorpion, Fame And Glory and Leading Light, who were retired directly to Coolmore’s National Hunt division, which now also features Montjeu’s Derby-winning son Pour Moi and his Derby runner-up Walk In The Park.
It seems harsh to say it, but Camelot’s task as a stallion hasn’t been made any easier by Montjeu’s first three Derby-winning sons. Although the 2005 winner Motivator found lasting fame as the sire of the brilliant Treve, and also sired the Group 1-winning Ridasiyna, his fee went from an initial £20,000 to as little as £5,000 in 2012, before Treve provided him with a boost.
Similarly, the 2007 winner Authorized started out at £25,000 in 2008 but by 2013 he stood for £7,000 and was then transferred to France. Like Motivator, he had had his moments, thanks to the Australian Group 1 winner Hartnell and those very smart fillies Ambivalent and Seal of Approval. Of course he also sired the multiple Grade 1-winning hurdler Nichols Canyon and the recent Grand National hero Tiger Roll. Montjeu’s 2011 Derby winner Pour Moi had already fallen from grace when his son Wings of Eagles added to Montjeu’s impact on the Derby by winning last year’s edition.
Of course, Camelot enjoyed a distinct advantage over his three predecessors, simply because he managed to win the 2000 Guineas prior to his victories in the Derby and Irish Derby. This extra speed could be attributed to Kingmambo and Danehill, the sires of his first two dams. Even so, it is noticeable that many of the breeders who used Camelot in his first year, in 2014, were intent on adding more speed to the mix. His 2-year-old group winner Fighting Irish has a dam by the top sprinter Pivotal and last weekend’s stakes winners Naturally High and Wait Forever, are respectively out of daughters of Grand Slam (a dual Grade I winner at two years) and Holy Roman Emperor (another who won a pair of Group 1s as a juvenile). You will also find the likes of Acclamation, Elusive City, Danehill Dancer and Storm Cat among the broodmare sires of his winners.
While this type of strategy may help attract attention in the sales ring, it may not be necessary if the objective is simply to breed a good winner by Camelot. The promising German colt Alounak has a dam by Rail Link, a winner of the Grand Prix de Paris and the Arc.
In the rush to try to inject speed, breeders mustn’t forget that Montjeu owed some of his highest-rated winners to mares by the major mile-and-a-half winners Shirley Heights, Saumarez, Law Society, Slip Anchor and Darshaan. This is especially important in view of the initiatives being introduced to breed and own horses which thrive over the longer distances.
And remember too that Fame And Glory (out of a Shirley Heights mare) was a Group 1 winner at two, as was Authorized (out of a daughter of Arc winner Saumarez). Indeed Montjeu sired four winners of the Racing Post Trophy, plus several other two-year-old Group 1 winners, so there is good reason for thinking that Camelot should be capable of siring leading juveniles in the latter part of the season, even from mares which stayed quite well.