The unbeaten Camelot will have 17 rivals to beat when he lines up for Saturday's 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, for which he's a red-hot favourite.
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Any concerns over Camelot?
Aidan O'Brien's runner looked out of the top drawer when demolishing his rivals in last season's Racing Post Trophy but that Doncaster race has previously been used by the trainer as a route for his Derby horses, and it's almost certain that Camelot is going to be best suited by middle distances. That assumption is based on his breeding as while his sire Montjeu produces the odd decent miler, his stock invariably excel over 1m2f or further. He was also responsible for Camelot's stablemate St Nicholas Abbey, who was heavily backed for this race in 2010 on the back of a stylish win at Doncaster only to flop badly, and O'Brien has since said he regretted pushing that horse so hard at the start of his three-year-old career. In which case, you have to question whether he'll have Camelot fully tuned up on his reappearance.
Then there is the ground to consider. Montjeu's progeny generally act with a bit of cut but both Camelot's wins came on good ground and connections are understandably concerned about his ability to handle the soft conditions at Newmarket. Throw in the fact the 2000 Guineas has not been a good race for favourites with just two - George Washington and Frankel last year - being successful since Zafonic in 1993, and there are plenty of reasons to oppose him at his current price of 7/4.
Is good juvenile form essential?
The 2000 Guineas has been described as the last juvenile race of the previous season and it usually pays to back a horse with a good level of form as a two-year-old. That points to Camelot of course but strictly on the ratings he doesn't have a great deal in hand over his stablemate Power (14/1 Ladbrokes), who had just two defeats in a terrific six-race juvenile campaign and was possibly unlucky not to win the Dewhurst having been desperately short of room at a crucial stage. That Newmarket race has consistently been the best guide with the last six winners finishing 148221 in the Guineas. At his best when beating Dragon Pulse over 7f on easy ground in the National Stakes, this battle-hardened type could prove to be a dangerous rival.
Can trial form be trusted?
With a long season ahead, it is rare these days for top-class horses to take in a trial prior to running in a Classic. Frankel was the exception of course, having prepped in the Greenham, but he was the first winner to come from that Newbury race since Wollow in 1976, and it is hard to believe that lightning will strike twice with Caspar Netscher. The Craven has proved to be the better trial and this year's impressive five-length winner Trumpet Major (10/1 Betfred) has to be given due consideration. The softish ground that day was clearly no inconvenience for the Richard Hannon-trained colt and the prospect of a strongly run 1m could see him in an even better light.
What of the International challenge?
Home based winners have been thin on the ground with Frankel only the third British-trained runner to oblige in the last decade - Ireland lead the way with six wins with Mafki providing the French with their solitary winner. They could be about to double that tally, though, as this year's Gallic challenge looks particularly strong with both French Fifteen (10/1 bet365) and Abtaal (8/1 Skybet), first and second in last month's Prix Djebel, having strong credentials. The general consensus is that Abtaal needed the run more that day and that is reflected in their prices. A strong traveller with a turn of foot, he looks ideally suited to the challenge of the Rowley Mile.
Any others to consider?
Roger Charlton has always held Top Offer (12/1 Totesport) in the highest regard and the colt was duly backed off the boards when making a successful winning debut at Newbury last October. He hasn't been since, though, and his inexperience has to be a concern, along with his stamina as while he'd bred to get a mile, he looked keen and quick on his sole run. Pulled out of the Greenham due to soft ground, connections will be hoping there's no more rain. The John Oxx-trained Born To Sea (9/1 Betfred), on the other hand, should relish it as it was soft when he won on his debut at the Curragh last September, and this impeccably bred colt - he's a three-parts brother to Sea The Stars - can be forgiven an odds-on defeat on his next start as he finished lame.
What's the verdict?
The concerns surrounding Camelot are impossible to ignore and while he may well turn out to be top class at three (a Derby winner even), he is crying out to be opposed at his current price. Fortunately, as he takes a large chunk out of the market, there's ample scope for an each-way bet and the one that really takes the eye is BORN TO SEA. Granted, he still has plenty to prove but he's already trumped his famous sibling by winning on his debut and that's significant as runners from his stable are never rushed and invariably come on plenty for their first run. Reportedly "fit and forward" after a trouble-free preparation, he is bred to exceed over a mile, unlike some of his better fancied rivals, and his round leg action means he will handle the soft ground better than most too. In fact, the more I look at it, I'm convinced he's a cracking each-way bet at the 9/1 on offer with several firms, including Betfred and Totesport.