Russian Camelot eyes first-up assault on The All-Star Mile

Russian Camelot has become the latest Group 1 hero to target The All-Star Mile 2021 after Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Danny O’Brien officially nominated his rising star for the third edition of Australia’s only fan-voted race.

Bookmakers have installed the four-year-old as one of the early favourites for the world’s richest mile race after he enjoyed a superb Spring Racing Carnival, claiming the second Group 1 of his fledgling career in the Underwood Stakes (1800m) and securing minor placings in three more feature contests.

That included a gallant third in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2400m) at The Valley – the same venue which for the first time will host the $5 million All-Star Mile on Saturday, 13 March 2021.

The son of English Derby winner Camelot was sent to the paddock after coming eighth in the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) – one of only two occasions in which he has failed to finish in the top three from 10 career starts.

But after enjoying his time at Barwon Heads on Melbourne’s Bellarine Peninsula, Russian Camelot will soon return to O’Brien’s Flemington stables to begin his preparations for the All-Star Mile, which he is expected to tackle first-up should he attract enough votes to gain a start.  

“Russian Camelot was arguably the most consistent Group 1 performer across the Spring Racing Carnival, so it is very exciting to see his name amongst the nominations for The All-Star Mile 2021,” said Greg Carpenter, Racing Victoria’s Executive General Manager – Racing.

“He ran an excellent race first-up over a mile in the Makybe Diva Stakes in September this year, so a repeat of that performance at The Valley on 13 March would surely see him fight out the finish in The All-Star Mile. 

“Given that, as a northern hemisphere-bred horse, he will only turn four on 1 January 2021, there is every chance Russian Camelot will be an even better horse next year so I would expect plenty of racing fans to rally round him when the All-Star Mile voting opens on 22 January.” 

O’Brien is hoping to launch a three-pronged assault on The All-Star Mile, with Russian Camelot’s stablemates Flying Award and Embolism joining him in the nominations list.

Both are three-year-old colts owned by the Ultra Racing syndicate and sired by Shamus Award, who was trained to Cox Plate glory – as a maiden – by O’Brien in 2013.

Embolism is a two-time winner who was last seen finishing fifth under Damien Oliver in the Group 3 Network 10 Carbine Club Stakes (1600m), whilst Flying Award’s sole career win to date came in the Listed ANZAC Day Stakes (1400m).

They are the latest names to stake their claim for a place in The All-Star Mile which, after making its debut at Flemington in 2019 and heading to Caulfield in March this year, will celebrate its third edition at The Valley in 2021. 

Inaugural winner Mystic Journey was the first nomination received for next year’s renewal, whilst another exciting mare from Tasmania, Still A Star, is hoping to replicate the achievements of the Apple Isle’s most famous equine.

Still A Star was named Tasmania’s leading three-year-old last season after she lived up to her stellar moniker by winning six of her seven starts, including victories in the Launceston Guineas (2100m) by five lengths and more recently the Listed Tasmanian Oaks (2100m).

The mare affectionately known as ‘Minnie’ may be small in stature – weighing in at just 420kg – but what she lacks in size she more than makes up for with a huge heart, according to her trainer Bill Ryan.

“We are so proud of her,” said Ryan.

“Minnie has been a great investment, she only cost $13,000 as a yearling and has already amassed $411,000 in prize money.

“We all think that it is worth Still A Star having a shot at the All-Star Mile and trying to follow in the footsteps of another Tasmanian, Mystic Journey, two years ago. She has her own Twitter account, and we’re hopeful her big fanbase here will get behind her when the voting opens next year.”

Surprise Baby has also been nominated for The All-Star Mile 2021, with his trainer Paul Preusker hoping his stable star can recapture the form which saw him rated amongst the leading chances for this year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m).

The $5,000 bargain buy has already amassed almost $1 million in prizemoney for his connections, and Preusker is hopeful his hometown of Horsham will mount a campaign to get the popular galloper into a race which carries a first prize of $2.25 million.

A winner over The Valley mile early in his career, the lightly raced six-year-old narrowly missed landing a Group 2 win over The All-Star Mile track and distance when a first-up second in the Feehan Stakes in September.

Surprise Baby’s stablemate Lunar Fox, a winner of the Group 2 VRC Sires Produce (1400m) at Flemington in March, also features among the early three-year-old entries.

Other contenders include Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman’s unbeaten gelding Aegon, who is set to sail across the Tasman in the new year to contest some of the Victorian Festival of Racing’s feature races.

The all-conquering Lindsay Park stable have nominated a total of six gallopers including Group 1 winners Personal and Fifty Stars, whilst Warrnambool horseman Lindsey Smith will aim both Mystery Shot – whose career record reads five wins from five starts – and recent Railway Stakes (1600m) runner-up Too Close the Sun at The All-Star Mile 2021.