O'Brien regrets not running pacemaker in St Leger
Trainer Aidan O'Brien reflected on beaten Triple Crown hopeful Camelot, who suffered his first career loss in Saturday's Group 1 St Leger. Held up off the pace as usual by his son Joseph O'Brien, the 2-5 favorite had to wait for room in the stretch, but couldn't kick as strongly as the victorious Encke and settled for second.
"My first thought is that it was a steadily-run race and I knew straightaway, after going a couple of furlongs, that was the case," the trainer said. "I should have run a pacemaker or two, but I thought that the pace was going to be strong.
"The minute the gates opened, Joseph was where he was and he couldn't do anything about it. That's exactly where I would have wanted him to be, when he is a horse going this distance (an extended 1 3/4 miles). Joseph had to relax him and he did, but Camelot just tanked a little bit early because the pace was steady.
"Joseph had to take his time down the straight and wait for the gaps to come, which you would do with Camelot anyway. When the gaps came, the winner was in probably a handier position and was gone.
"When Camelot got out, he just stayed on rather than quickened up. He quickened up in the (Group 1 Two Thousand) Guineas and the (Group 1) Derby but that was always liable to happen because we were running him a bit further than his distance.
"What Camelot (normally) does is quicken -- he was just staying on today - we're going past our distance and were stretching the elastic band.
"Today he was like the Guineas run. But he still has run a great race. I would have preferred a faster pace where he would have settled better. Camelot was tanking with Joseph the whole way.
"No one thinks more about this horse than Joseph. I can see the way the race unfolded where he went and why he was there. He had to stay creeping where he was -- he could not go pulling Camelot to the outside turning in.
"He had to keep waiting for the gaps as they came. That is what he did.
"If he (Joseph) had come four wide in the straight, I would have been going mad.
"My regret is that I should have run a pacemaker or two and it would have made it a little bit more straightforward because that means he would have settled a little bit earlier, a little bit better and he might have quickened a bit more than he did.
"That's the way it is and well done to the winner. That's the reality of it, really.
"How many times do I do it and make a hash of it (running pacemakers) and then I made a hash of it by not having any.
"I am not sure where he will go next," the trainer concluded. "I thought that, if he was to stay in training next year, there was a chance that he wouldn't run anymore but I don't know. It will be the boys' decision."
Joseph O'Brien was too upset to comment after the race.
Frankie Dettori, who rode the third-placer Michelangelo, had no complaints.
"It was straightforward race and I stayed on well for third," Dettori said.
"(Ursa Major) stayed on well at the end," jockey Johnny Murtagh said of the fourth-place finisher. "I am delighted with him. They went a slow early pace and I got tapped for toe at the top of the hill but I am still delighted."
Ted Durcan, rider of fifth Main Sequence, commented on his mount's slow start.
"I missed the break, which wasn't any help," Durcan said. "So I ended up last which wasn't the plan, but he's run a solid race."
William Buick, jockey of sixth Thought Worthy, believed that the ground went against him.
"The ground was a bit too quick -- it has dried too much for me, but he ran a good race for a long way," Buick said. "The race went perfectly for him but the ground was just too quick. He ran an honest race."
"I thought they might have gone a bit quicker but no excuses," said Tom Queally, rider of eighth Thomas Chippendale.
"My horse led well," said Robert Havlin, who guided the pacemaker Dartford, "and about half-way I had a little look behind and Joseph (O'Brien on Camelot) was cantering.
"Obviously, I was too far behind to see the finish but I don't think there were any hard luck stories."
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