23 June 2023

Camacho ‘speechless’ as Shaquille shoots and scores

23 June 2023

A pre-dawn wake up call and a fumbled start could not prevent Shaquille from securing a landmark success for connections in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

The three-year-old was homebred by his co-owner Martin Hughes and is trained counties away in Norton, North Yorkshire, by Julie Camacho.

He was loaded into the gates a 9-1 chance for the six-furlong Group One, middling odds that began to look far too short as he bounced upwards in his stall instead of outwards and let the field gain lengths on him from the off.

A little mischief has never been beyond the bay, who had only been beaten once prior to the Royal meeting but has looked a handful on both sides of the starter’s rostrum.

The phrase ‘pulled hard’ and ‘took a keen hold’ appear in the descriptions of almost all of his races, but under Oisin Murphy he was able to settle into a rhythm at the rear of the pack as the jostling took place ahead of him.

A few furlongs in he was gaining ground and looked like he might run into a place, but once he began to gun for Little Big Bear, the leader and 10-11 favourite, he dug deeper and deeper still to triumph by a length and a quarter.

The victory is hugely significant for Camacho and her husband and assistant Steve Brown, whose greatest success beforehand was the Group Three honours gained by Judicial, another sprinter, in the Chipchase Stakes and the Coral Charge.

“I watched it on my own, I was very nervous actually. I started to feel a bit sick and very nervous!” she said.

Of his steady start, the trainer added: “I thought well that’s it, isn’t it? He’s blown his chance. I’ve just watched it live and I’d like to go back and watch it properly but he was good, wasn’t he?

“It’s massive, we never thought we’d train a Group One winner, not at Royal Ascot anyway. For Martin (Hughes) it’s massive, he bred him, he’s got his mother at home and his siblings. Dad (Maurice, former trainer) looks after the stud and I’m sure he was screaming at home.

“When he started to run on I thought ‘oh he’s going to be place, he’s going to run a big race’.

“Then ‘oh my god, he’s going to win!’. I’m a bit speechless actually.”

Camacho, who does not seek out the limelight, reluctantly went up to collect the trophy as Brown pondered how good the horse could be with a neat start and a smooth passage.

He said: “I still maintain that we haven’t brought him racing and seen him do everything right, it’s fascinating. We’re enjoying the journey and hoping for a few more, he’s in the July Cup.

“It’s a good story. You come hoping, don’t you? We’re all dreamers and you’ve got to be in this game. We fed him at three o’clock this morning so he could have a smooth journey down, we didn’t want to bring him overnight as he’s never stayed overnight. We wanted him to sleep in his own bed and he left at quarter past four this morning.

“I think the making of him has been a paddock for him, every evening stables now he’s turned out and it’s just brought such a change about in him.

“He wouldn’t have walked around the paddock like he did before, he just goes out there and puts his head down – it’s made a huge difference to him and though it’s punchy for a colt, I’m so glad we did it.”

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