While May 5 was Derby Day in the United States, it was Guineas Day in England. The first of the season's major European classics, the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) marked the much-anticipated seasonal debut of Camelot, the top juvenile in England and Ireland last year. The colt did not disappoint. In a race run on going softer than he favors and at a distance shorter than his breeding calls for, Camelot gutted out a neck victory and is now a hot favorite for the Epsom Derby (Eng-I), a race more likely to be in line with his true aptitude.
Much of the confidence that Camelot will prefer the longer distance is based on the record of his sire, the late Montjeu. Although quick enough to be a listed stakes winner at 2, Montjeu was far better at 3 and 4, scoring his most important wins in the Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I), the Emirates Airline Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-I), and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I) at 3 and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) at 4. Overall, the colt won six group I events with only one, the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I), coming at less than 2,400 meters (about 12 furlongs). A champion or highweight in England, France, and Ireland, he retired to Coolmore having won 11 of 16 starts.
Although Montjeu's sire Sadler's Wells was American-bred and took his most prestigious wins in the one-mile Airlie Coolmore Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) and the 10-furlong Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I), he stayed 12 furlongs well and earned fame at stud for siring horses that relished the quintessential European classic distance. His proclivity for throwing stamina was reinforced in Montjeu's dam, Floripedes. A daughter of 1979 Prix du Jockey Club winner Top Ville, she won the Prix de Lutece CIGA (Fr-III) at about 15 furlongs and ran second in the classic Prix Royal Oak (Fr-I).
Since 2005, when he was a second-crop sire, Montjeu has never finished worse than seventh by total purse money among English and Irish sires and is currently atop this year's list. To date, he has sired three winners of the Epsom Derby, three winners of the Irish Derby, one winner of the Prix du Jockey Club, two winners of the St. Leger Stakes (Eng-I), one winner of the Irish St. Leger (Ire-I), and now one of the Two Thousand Guineas. His loss to septicemia on March 29, 2012, was a bitter blow to Coolmore, which will surely be looking to Camelot as a possible replacement as the colt is owned by Coolmore associates Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor.
Bred by Sheik Abdulla bin Isa al Khalifa, Camelot is out of Tarfah, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Kingmambo whose best win came in the nine-furlong VCBet Dahlia Stakes (Eng-III) at Newmarket as a 4-year-old. The now-pensioned Kingmambo is no stranger to European classic success: winner of the 1993 Dubai Poule d'Essai des Poulains (Fr-I) during his own racing days, the son of Mr. Prospector and multiple champion Miesque sired two winners of the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (Fr-I) in Bluemamba (2000) and Divine Proportions (2005). The latter filly also won the 2005 Prix de Diane Hermes (Fr-I).
In addition, Kingmambo sired the Two Thousand Guineas winners King’s Best (2000) and Henrythenavigator (2008)—the latter also the winner of the Boylesports Irish Two Thousand Guineas, Ire-I)—and the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) winners Russian Rhythm (2003) and Virginia Waters (2005).
As the listing above suggests, Kingmambo was primarily an influence for miler speed on the European scene, though his son Rule of Law stayed well enough to take the longest English classic, the 14½-furlong Betfair.com St. Leger, in 2004. But Danehill, Tarfah's maternal grandsire, was even quicker than Kingmambo, winning the 1989 Ladbroke Sprint Stakes (Eng-I) as a 3-year-old. In the stud, the son of Danzig proved to be one of those horses who could blend his own brilliant speed with the aptitudes of his mates; his 354 stakes winners (as credited by The Jockey Club) include everything from out-and-out sprinters to two-time Prix du Cadran (Fr-I) and 2005 Ascot Gold Cup (Eng-I) winner Westerner, a horse who stayed 2½ miles with aplomb.
Camelot's female line is of solid quality as Tarfah is out of Fickle, a listed stakes winner over 10 furlongs. Fickle's dam Fade, by Prix Lupin (Fr-I) winner Persepolis, did not race, but her dam One Over Parr (by the top miler Reform) was a nice filly, winning the 1975 Cheshire Oaks and Lancashire Oaks (both Eng-III) before a broodmare career during which she produced multiple Italian group III winner Tom Seymour (by Grundy). One Over Parr's dam Seventh Bride (by the stakes-winning Nasrullah horse Royal Record) was also a good racer, winning the 1969 Princess Royal Stakes, and in addition to One Over Parr produced her full sister, the 1974 Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) winner Polygamy.
Seventh Bride's family traces back to the mighty Hungarian champion Kincsem, who still holds the record for the longest career by an unbeaten Thoroughbred: 54 starts, 54 wins while racing in Hungary, Austria, Germany, England, and France. Her skein included victories in the Goodwood Cup, the Grand Prix de Deauville, and three consecutive editions of the Grosser Preis von Baden. While Kincsem's family was devastated by World War II, it has nonetheless been responsible for numerous standouts in Eastern Europe and Germany, as well as classic winners in England, France, Brazil, and Russia.
As a blue-blooded entire racing for one of the most successful breeding enterprises in the world, Camelot is highly unlikely to remain in training long enough to menace his ancestress' record, even if he does remain unbeaten throughout his career. But based on the form he already has shown, he is certainly a worthy addition to the legacy of one of the greatest mares of all time.