DONCASTER, England (AFP) –
Odds-on favourite Camelot’s hopes of landing the English Triple Crown were dashed here on Saturday as outsider Encke won the St Leger and returned to stunned silence.
Encke, owned by the Dubai-based Godolphin Operation, was sent into the lead by Mikael Barzelona halfway down the straight and although Camelot came to challenge he never threatened to add the race to the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby.
Encke, giving Barzalona his first win on his first ride in the race, won at 25/1 – the longest odds winner since Cut Above stunned Shergar in 1981 – prevailed by 3/4 of a length over 2/5 on favourite Camelot.
Michelangelo, whose trainer John Gosden was bidding for a hat-trick of Leger wins, finished third at 10/1 under Frankie Dettori a further three lengths behind.
Camelot’s trainer Aidan O’Brien took defeat gracefully and refused to criticise his son Joseph who rode the hot favourite, sitting him out the back initially and was caught cold when Barzalona got to the gap ahead of him.
“Obviously it was a steadily run race and I knew straight away I should have run a couple of pacemakers,” said the 42-year-old trainer.
“He (Joseph) couldn’t do anything about where he was but he tanked him a bit.
“He had to take his time down the straightm which he had to, and the gaps came but the winner was in a handier position. When Camelot got to the gap he just stayed on he didn’t pick up any extra speed.
“My regret is I didn’t run a pacemaker or even two and he would have settled quicker.
“Well done to the winner and this is the reality of it. If he (Camelot) was going to stay in training next year he wouldn’t run again this season,” added O’Brien, who also saw his dreams of becoming the first trainer to train all five British classic winners in a season dashed.
For Godolphin it was a welcome Group One win in a well below-par season.
“This is our sixth victory in the race and this one is right up with the best of those,” said Godolphin’s urbane racing manager Simon Crisford, standing in for Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum who was absent.
“We didn’t think we would win. We thought we could get a piece of the pie. However, Mikael rode him beautifully and gelled brilliantly with the horse.”
Trainer Mahmood Al-Zarooni was a bit perplexed at winning the race on his third attempt with an outsider.
“The last two years I have come here with the favourites and not won and now I come with an outsider and I succeed! Very odd!” said Al Zarooni winning his second British classic.
The last colt to win the Triple Crown was Irish legend Nijinsky – trained in Ireland by Vincent O’Brien, no relation of Aidan’s, but out of the same Ballydoyle Stables – in 1970.