Doncaster’s atmosphere switched from heightened to distinctly flat within the space of three minutes as Godolphin’s Encke extinguished hopes of Camelot achieving a rare English Triple Crown in the Ladbrokes St Leger.
Previously unbeaten, Camelot was the 2-5 favourite to add the season’s final Classic to his 2000 Guineas and Derby successes.
Unfortunately for his supporters and the expectant thousands in a sell-out crowd, Aidan O’Brien’s colt was caught out by an unsteady pace and the sublime riding of Mickael Barzalona on Encke, clawing back all but three-quarters of a length as he failed to replicate the feat last accomplished by Nijinsky in 1970.
There have been many epic head-to-heads between the ranks of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin stables and the O’Brien-Coolmore axis, but this was a rather unexpected sixth Leger for the owner, and a first for both trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni and Barzalona on his debut in the event.
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said: “Mickael rode a beautiful race and when he kicked at the two-pole he put the race to bed really. We came here thinking he was a really solid place chance but he has won fair and square.
“What we loved about that race was the turn of foot he showed, that stands very well for next season and he will stay in training. ”
No Guineas and Derby winner had even attempted the Triple Crown since former Ballydoyle inmate Nijinsky, and Camelot had to conquer the extra two furlongs which had even eluded the great Shergar.
The first horse to try and fail since World War II, such an opportunity lost caused Joseph O’Brien to return in tears. His father said: “ It was a steadily-run race and Joseph said he was a little bit fresh with him, but that was probably always going to happen in a slowly-run race. You have to take your time on him over a mile and six which he (Joseph) did and when he got out he just stayed on rather than quickened.