There is now less than a month to go until the final English classic of the
season, the £550,000 Group 1 St Leger, which takes place at Doncaster
Racecourse on September 15.
An almost unprecedented sense of anticipation is in the air as Camelot remains on course for his bid to become the 16th winner of the Triple Crown and the first since Nijinsky in 1970. The unbeaten son of Montjeu, who was last seen out when winning the Group 1 Irish Derby on June 30, was given a racecourse gallop at Leopardstown Thursday afternoon.
Camelot, the red-hot 2-5 favorite with race sponsor Ladbrokes, went out for his spin with Joseph O'Brien aboard and easily strode well clear of workmates Fame and Glory and Chamonix.
"It was a nice even, solid, building pace over a mile and a half and Camelot did it lovely," trainer Aidan O'Brien told At The Races.
"It has been a good while since he ran and he has had a break and done really well -- he is made like a miler now and has got very round and strong.
"He will be running over quite a bit further in the St Leger and it's important that he has had a nice day out here today. He can now be trained for the race.
"He will have an easy few days after his gallop today and then his build-up will start. It will be a big test for him going that trip in the St Leger."
The Doncaster St Leger, the world's oldest Classic, is run over one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards.
O'Brien also commented on the six-year-old Fame and Glory, Europe's champion stayer who was warming up for the Group 1 Irish St Leger at The Curragh September 15.
"Fame and Glory has got older and wiser," the trainer said, "and when you drop him in during a race now, he goes asleep and doesn't wake up, so Seamus (Heffernan) is adamant that we need to ride him handy and don't break his rhythm. We came here with him with a view to coming back in the Irish St Leger."
A potential rival for Camelot at Doncaster is the progressive Hartani, trained by John Oxx, who made it a hat-trick of victories when routing his rivals in the Group 3 Curragh Cup over 1 3/4 miles on July 1, scoring by 5 1/2 lengths.
The Aga Khan homebred had previously opened his account at the second time of asking in an extended 12-furlong maiden at Tipperary in early May, before following up over the same course and distance in a conditions race later in the same month.
Oxx, who trains at Currabeg Stables in County Kildare, outlined plans for the son of Shirocco.
"Hartani will run in the Irish St Leger Trial at the Curragh next weekend (Group 3 on August 25), and then we will see how he gets on before making a decision about the St Leger," the trainer said.
"He could be taking on some older horses, but he will have to win if he was going to travel to Doncaster.
"He is in good form and had a little break after his win at the Curragh last time, but he is now working away in the usual way at home and it's so far so good with him. He has done well and is ready now for an autumn campaign, but where he goes will be determined in some respects by next weekend.
"We thought he could win at the Curragh and he probably won easier than we thought, but the conditions were very tough -- the ground was very heavy -- and he handles that well.
"He has an advantage when he is running on ground like that, and it remains to be seen if he can turn in a performance like that on good ground. He is not a horse for good to firm or firm ground, so ground might be an issue for him, but we will find out more when he runs.
"He won a decent race on quicker ground on his third start, but it wasn't at the level he will be running at from now on.
"He has a great temperament and is very tough and genuine. I think his attitude is his strongest point.
"It will be very hard to beat Camelot -- it looks set up for him -- but then again, the St Leger can be a tough and grueling race and it depends on how strong the pace is and how the race unfolds. He could be found out for stamina if there are enough strong stayers in the race but he does look tailor-made for it."
Hartani is rated a 16-1 chance with Ladbrokes to score at Town Moor next month.
Potential rivals to Camelot could also emerge in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York next Wednesday, with 10 of the 11 remaining entries for that 12-furlong contest also holding entries in the St Leger.
These include Frankel's full brother Noble Mission, trained by Sir Henry Cecil, who staked his St Leger credentials in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on July 31 with a nose defeat of Godolphin's Encke, who could reoppose at York. Godolphin could also be represented in the Great Voltigeur by Energizer, who landed the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
The past two renewals of the St Leger have fallen to John Gosden-trained horses and the Newmarket handler could put Shantaram and Thought Worthy on trial for this year's race in the Great Voltigeur.
Other St Leger entries also engaged in the Great Voltigeur include the David Lanigan-trained Main Sequence, who beat all bar Camelot in the Group 1 Derby at Epsom in June and Thomas Chippendale, who is trained by Cecil for Yorkshireman Sir Robert Ogden and was successful in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The next scratchings deadline for the St Leger is on August 28.
The St Leger Festival at Doncaster runs from September 12-15. For more information go to the Doncaster website.