Trainer Danny O’Brien has labelled Russian Camelot (IRE) the best horse he has been associated with after the northern hemisphere-bred three-year-old took out the $750,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Lining-up for just his seventh race start, Russian Camelot controlled Saturday’s weight-for-age contest from the outset after jumping smartly from his wide draw with jockey Damien Oliver electing to roll forward on the colt to track the leader Trap For Fools.
Moving out to the centre of the Caulfield track rounding the home turn, Oliver took Russian Camelot to the lead.
After a brief moment where it looked likely that Arcadia Queen and Humidor (NZ) were going to throw out challenges back to the inside, the punters who had heavily supported Russian Camelot had little to worry about.
Sent off the $1.55 favourite, Russian Camelot defeated Humidor ($7) by 1-¾ lengths with Arcadia Queen ($5.50) a further half-length back in third place.
Russian Camelot (IRE) and Damien Oliver stride clear, picture Racing Photos
It was a domination from the outset and prompted TAB to shorten Russian Camelot from $4.50 to $3.50 favourite for the $5 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) on October 24 and into $8 equal favourite for the $8 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 3.
“I think he’s the best horse I’ve had anything to do with, particularly to do so much so early in his career,” O’Brien said.
“He’s a magnificent colt and we’re thrilled that he’s got this done today and hopefully it’s not the end of the spring for him.
“There’s been a lot of hype around him, people are expecting things like this so it’s really exciting to see him go out there and get it done.”
O’Brien plans for Russian Camelot to return for the $1 million Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on October 10 enroute to the Cox Plate.
Oliver said Russian Camelot was an exciting horse and one that was a pleasure to be partnering.
He said Russian Camelot had been a boom horse his entire career and it is nice when they can fulfill it.
Oliver decided to take advantage of Russian Camelot jumping smartly and in doing so take any bad luck out of play.
“He’s kind of a classic weight-for-age horse,” Oliver said.
“He has the ability to sit on the pace and also to sit back and I wanted to keep my options open.
“When he broke clean and when he was able to get up there easily, I thought that it was better to grab the race by the scruff of the neck and give him his chance rather than being back in the ruck and having to make up a ton of ground.”
Oliver said he liked the idea of running Russian Camelot each fortnight leading up to the Cox Plate.
“It’s a nice preparation for him,” Oliver said.
“Getting the racing into him now, he’s got a good foundation.
“Danny’s done a great job preparing him so I’m looking forward to races ahead.”
Russian Camelot is a son of Camelot (GB) from the Cape Cross (IRE) mare Lady Babooshka (GB) and has won four of his seven start, including two at Group 1 level, for owners Mr J R Wheeler, Mr G L Mcrostie, QLD Cup Colts, Mr B A Ainsworth, Mrs S Kanga, Mr J Kanga, Mr M P Edwards, Mr M G Ford, collecting $911,225 in prize money.
Craig Williams, who partnered Humidor, said the gelding was doing so much right but ran into a superstar.
“He was able to jump out nicely, he’s racing kind, he’s not hanging in and he’s showing that great acceleration in the straight,” Williams said.
“He’s in for a cracking Cox Plate this year. There’s no Winx and I haven’t got a confirmed ride yet, (but) I’d be very happy to ride him.”
Determination by Russian Camelot and Oliver winning the Underwood, picture Racing Photos