Should Kameko add the Investec Derby to his 2000 Guineas success at Epsom on Saturday, then Andrew Balding’s colt will join an elite list.
Equine giants such as Nijinsky, Nashwan and Sea The Stars completed the double and the last one to achieve it was Camelot in 2012.
Kameko’s efforts at Newmarket provided champion jockey Oisin Murphy with a first British Classic, while it was a second for Balding, coming some 17 years after Casual Look won the Oaks. His family is intrinsically linked to the Derby given his father, Ian, trained the brilliant 1971 winner, Mill Reef.
“We were really pleased with the way that Kameko came out of Newmarket, he is a very laid-back horse. He slept that night, got up the next morning and was straight back to work and hasn’t looked back since,” said Balding.
“We went into the Guineas with high hopes that he would run very well, but I was really pleased with the way he won the race. I think it was a strong Guineas, I think both Wichita and Pinatubo are two very good horses and he picked them up and was on top at the end and that was important.”
Although no one has doubted Kameko’s class as a Group One winner at two and three already, doubts about his stamina have gathered momentum in some quarters – but, crucially, not at Kingsclere.
“I think his last furlong was his best furlong. Even though he hung slightly across the track, he was really strong at the end of the race. I think that has got to be encouraging in terms of looking towards Epsom,” said Balding.
“Handling Epsom is something you just never really know until you get to the racecourse. I think he came into the dip and out of it very well this year in the Guineas, so he should be able to handle it.
“There are no hiding places at Epsom, that’s why it’s designed (that way) and why the race is run there, so if he can’t handle it he shouldn’t be winning the Derby.”
Aidan O’Brien fields a strong team, with six lining up for Ballydoyle, headed by Ryan Moore’s mount Mogul, who was well beaten at Ascot on his sole run this year.
“Mogul has improved a lot, we think, but we still think he’ll improve more. He’s gone the right way since Ascot which we thought and hoped he would,” said O’Brien.
“We’re very happy with what he’s doing, but we still think there’s more to come.
“We always thought he’d get a mile and a half. I wouldn’t say it has been difficult (preparing him), more not ideal, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. We gave him the toughest task because we knew we were only getting one run into him.
“Russian Emperor came out of Ascot well and Ryan was happy with him. He’s never gone further than 10 furlongs, but he’s very well and everything has been good with him since. He has managed three runs and is out of a great mare, by Galileo, so he could be a very exciting horse – there’s every chance over the trip he could improve again.
“Vatican City was just ready to run (in the Irish Guineas, when second). He was really ready for a conditions race, so he just made it. He’s been in good form since and we think he’s gone the right way, but whether he’ll get the trip, we don’t know. It was only a mile at the Curragh and he ran through the line, but it was a slowly-run Guineas.
“Mythical has improved a lot for the Curragh, where it didn’t really work for him. We think you’ll see a different horse at Epsom – he’s a good traveller, a classy horse. He’s another one we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.
“Serpentine ran in a maiden first time out this year and he got caught in a pocket and couldn’t get out. He’s a horse that stays very well. Wayne (Lordan) rode him at the Curragh, he got a good break so just let him roll along and he ran straight through the line, he wasn’t stopping. It’s going to be interesting watching him over a mile and a half – he’s a seriously well-bred Galileo.
“Amhran Na Bhfiann is a lovely, big horse who we always thought would get the trip well. He’s had one run this year in a race which worked out incredibly well. The winner (Tiger Moth) was second in the Irish Derby, the second (Dawn Patrol) was third in the Irish Derby and the third was fourth, so it was a seriously strong maiden. We were always going to get one run into him and then come here, so he’s another it will be interesting to see.”
An undoubtedly popular winner would be Pyledriver for trainer William Muir and his jockey son-in-law Martin Dwyer – a Derby winner on Sir Percy in 2006. He was impressive in winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot.
“We could not have been happier with Pyledriver at Ascot and he has come out of the race really well,” said Muir.
“I said from Ascot that he had to come right back to his best at home (if he is to run at Epsom). That includes putting weight on and he has done that.
“We thought Pyledriver was a good horse at the beginning of the year, although because of the season and how it has turned out, we are able to have a Derby runner, something which might not have happened in an ordinary year because he would had to have been supplemented.
“There are one or two very strong horses in the Derby, but he has not done anything wrong. His time was good at Royal Ascot and he has come out of the race well.
“Everybody is excited, and we are really looking forward to it.”