Classic hero Kameko made a triumphant return to Newmarket with a comfortable success in the Shadwell Joel Stakes.
Andrew Balding’s stable star has raced over a variety of different trips since his career-defining victory in the 2000 Guineas – finishing fourth over a mile and a half in the Derby, over a mile in the Sussex Stakes and over a mile and a quarter in the Juddmonte International.
Back over the Rowley Mile for this Group Two assignment, Kameko was being niggled along by Oisin Murphy at the halfway stage, but displayed courage and class to respond to the champion jockey’s urgings and take over the lead from last year’s winner Benbatl.
Just as the 85-40 chance looked to have victory sewn up, Regal Reality finished with a flourish, but Kameko always appeared to have matters in hand and passed the post half a length to the good.
Benbatl was not disgraced in finishing third on his first start since the Saudi Cup in February.
Balding said of the winner: “It was not easy giving weight to good horses. He always hits a flat spot in his races and he stops a little bit in front. I thought he might hit the front a bit too soon.
“It was going to be a long wait until Ascot and/or the Breeders’ Cup, if the ground is bad at Ascot, and he is a horse that could have done with a run in between.
“One hundred per cent that was as good as his Guineas win. There was no hiding place today with the penalty and proper, good older horses in the race.
“I don’t think we have had a fair crack of the whip with him this year. The horse has not had the campaign that we really wanted.”
Kameko is likely to make his next appearance in either the QEII at Ascot on October 17 or at the Breeders’ Cup.
Balding added: “I think there is no doubt he is a miler and that was a really good effort. He has done it on slightly slower ground today, but full credit to the horse – he is very decent.
“I’d like to go to Ascot, personally. At some stage it would be interesting to see what he could do on soft ground and the likelihood is it will be slower at Ascot than it was today, but that is the unknown.
“It will be the owner’s decision. He is a very valuable horse as a stallion and I don’t want to take the risk that might effect his appeal to breeders at stud.”
On whether Kameko will stay in training next season, he said: “I think that is a decision the owner and the Qatar Racing team will take shortly. I don’t have a final answer, but I think the likelihood is that he will be at stud next year.”
Murphy said: “I’m delighted for Sheikh Fahad (owner) and everyone. To give weight away to older horses is a very difficult task and he stuck his head out and did everything right in the race.
“He ran straight as a die. He is so tough and consistent and, on ratings, I think that will rate higher than his Guineas win as to give weight away to older horses shows what a top horse he is.
“He is a very intelligent horse. I took him down in a hack canter and I had him really quiet at the gate. If I lit him up at all, he would have travelled really on the bridle. I was happy for him to race a little lazily today.”
Saeed bin Suroor was satisfied with Benbatl’s run and an Ascot rematch could be a possibility.
He said: “Frankie (Dettori) said he needed the race. He will improve for the race. He is entered at Ascot in the Champion Stakes and the QEII and we will have a look at both and see. He will be ready for both of those races, but he doesn’t want soft ground.
“It is unlikely that he would go to America. I would say after Ascot he will go back to Dubai.”