Progeny are poised for a colossal Classic campaign
James Thomas states the case for the Derby hero having a fruitful year
On paper Camelot already has everything he needs to succeed at stud. First and foremost, he was a phenomenal racehorse. He went unbeaten in his first five starts, winning four Group 1s - including the Racing Post Trophy at two - and three Classics.
He became Montjeu's first winner over a Classic mile in the 2,000 Guineas and slammed the opposition in both the English and Irish Derby, before getting within three quarters of a length of emulating one of the true greats, Nijinsky, when second in the St Leger.
His pedigree also looks cast iron, containing strands of some of the most influential stallions in recent times.
There is no doubt that Montjeu is one of the finest stallions of current era, and lest we forget that his sire sons have already supplied top-level winners such as Treve, Wings Of Eagles, Hartnell, Werther, Ectot, Ambivalent and Seal Of Approval.
That Camelot appears to be the only son of Montjeu marketed as a Flat sire in Britain or Ireland says more about the climate we find ourselves in, where the promise of precocity is held in the highest regard, rather than any notable shortcoming in the son of Sadler's Wells' record.
Camelot does, in fact, boast a slightly sharper female line than many of Montjeu's sire sons, as he is out of Tarfah, a Dahlia Stakes winner by the top miler Kingmambo out of a Listed-winning daughter of the sprinter-miler Danehill.
Camelot also has another extremely important weapon in his armoury: mare power.
No stallion can prosper without the books of mares required to turn potential into reality, either in terms of quality or quantity, and in Camelot's case he is supported by both. And just as he broke the mould on the racecourse, Camelot's numbers at stud have departed from the norm.
Typically, a stallion's debut book will be the largest of his first three, with numbers tending to drop off in the seasons before that first crop selling as yearlings as breeders hedge their bets over who will succeed at stud and who will fail.
However, the number of mares served by Camelot actually increased during his second and third seasons at stud, the sire having covered 194 mares in 2014, 202 in 2015 and 208 in 2016, while his 2017 tally of 179 is certainly healthier than many others have recorded in their fourth year.
There is an even spread of quality among those numbers too, as of the 783 mares Camelot has covered in his four seasons at stud, 63 per cent (494 mares) are winners, 32 per cent (252) are stakes-placed and 18 per cent (141) are black-type winners.
CAMELOT – THE FACTS AND FIGURES
Pedigree 9yo b Montjeu-Tarfah (Kingmambo)
2018 fee €30,000
2017 yearling average £91,290
We have, of course, already seen Camelot's debut two-year-olds, but there was only ever going to be so much the first juvenile crop of a horse whose finest hour came over 1m4f at Epsom could tell us. What we did learn, though, is that Camelot is well capable of siring winners, as by the time 2017 drew to a close he had supplied 18 sons and daughters that had crossed the line in front.
Among the 18 winners Camelot supplied is Fighting Irish, who showed enough speed and precocity to readily see off the smart Nebo over a tactically run 6f in the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte. Four other stakes-class two-year-olds emerged during Camelot's freshman season, the Listed-winning Alounak, the Group 3-placed Wait Forever and King Of Camelot, and the Listed-placed Alhadab.
There are also a whole host of unexposed types in the pipeline who could have stakes race aspirations in 2018, including the likes of Tonkin, who ran out an eight-and-a-half length winner of a Listowel maiden, the Richard Hannon-trained Newmarket novice stakes scorer Vitamin, six-length Tipperary maiden winner Whirling Dervish, the Khalifa Dasmal-owned winning debutante Lady Of Shalott and the John Gosden inmate Msayyan.
However, the words class and precocity have never been interchangeable, and it seems entirely possible that it is the former rather than the latter quality that Camelot's progeny have displayed. While precocity maybe in vogue right now its impact wears thin over time, whereas class, according to the old maxim, is permanent.
With that in mind, and with Camelot's stock expected to show significant improvement as they progress with age, his first juveniles were always going to be less about winners and stakes performers and more about laying a solid foundation on which to build. And while he has supplied his fair share of winners and stakes horses, there are other signs that his progeny possess latent talent that is just waiting to be tapped into.
By the close of play in the 2017 campaign Camelot had supplied 19 horses with a Racing Post Rating of 80 or higher. By way of comparison, Galileo had just 12 horses in the same ratings category at the end of his freshman year, while that tally also places Camelot ahead of his own peer group, 2017's freshman sires, by the same metric.
Among the lightly raced sorts who didn't get off the mark at two but who look nailed on to make serious progress at three include Latrobe, who was a hugely promising second behind the well-regarded James Cook in a back-end Leopardstown maiden, the Andre Fabre-trained Act Of God, who was runner-up to the exciting Wootton on debut, the Hugo Palmer-trained Employer, a closely related half-brother to Australian Group 1 winner Magic Hurricane, and Naturally High, who improved 15 lb from first to second run when runner-up in a Saint-Cloud maiden.
And all that before we have even get to the three-year-olds owned by the Coolmore axis and their partners. Among the sleepers who reside at Ballydoyle are the placed Hunting Horn, who is out of a half-sister to High Chaparral, the well-related Christopher Robin, who finished second to subsequent Group 3 winner Nelson on debut, Gardens Of Babylon, who finished one place behind the aforementioned Latrobe at Leopardstown, and Dabirsim's half-sister Queen Iseult.
With his first three-year-olds set to be the driving force behind a much-improved showing from Camelot in 2018, it is also worth taking into account the number of his first crop who are still to make their debut.
Of those in the unraced three-year-old camp who catch the eye on paper are; the unnamed half-brother to Fillies' Mile winner Listen in training with Martyn Meade; the 330,000gns filly out of a three-parts sister to Group 1 winner Wannabe Grand in training with Rodolphe Collet; the €320,000 filly Fraiha owned by Al Shaqab and in training with John Gosden, whose stable is also home to the 260,000gns half-brother to the Group 3-placed Nezar; and the three-parts sister to Gold Cup and St Leger winner Goodnight.
It is also worth noting that at this stage Camelot still has 26 entries in the Derby.
Also in Camelot's corner for the 2018 season is his second crop of two-year-olds, among which are some choicely bred prospects.
Among the juveniles worth keeping an eye on are Heywa, a half-sister to Poule d'Essai des Poulains winner Clodovil; a three-parts sister to Irish Derby hero Frozen Fire; and siblings to the likes of Group and Grade 1 winner Erupt; Prix Maurice de Gheest hero King's Apostle; Group 3 winner and Prix Jean Romanet runner-up Siyoushake; Balanchine Stakes winner Most Beautiful; Beresford Stakes victor and National Stakes third David Livingston; Nell Gwyn Stakes heroine and prolific US stakes winner Sandiva; and last season's smart juvenile Brother Bear.
With Camelot's first crop having spent their debut season merely sharpening their tools, they should now be fully prepared for the battles ahead. And with a legion of blue-blooded two-year-olds coming through at the same, there is every chance Camelot can conquer in 2018.