Thursday 14 December 2017

Awesome Abbey in return to top form

St Nicholas Abbey returned to his brilliant best with a superb defence of his crown in the Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup at Epsom yesterday.

A resounding victory in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster rounded off an unbeaten juvenile campaign that had many believing the son of Montjeu could develop into one of the greats.

However, a disappointing display in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket proved to be his only appearance as a three-year-old, with trainer Aidan O'Brien subsequently blaming himself for rushing his charge for the season's opening Classic.

Results have been mixed since, but he rounded off 2011 on a high with a superb performance in the Breeders' Cup Turf and there was enough promise in his close second in March's Dubai Sheema Classic to suggest there were more top-level prizes to be won.

He was sent off the 8/11 favourite to win this mile-and-a-half prize for the second year as he aimed to bounce back from a shock defeat at The Curragh, where he failed to catch pacemaker, Windsor Palace.

St Nicholas Abbey travelled beautifully this time under the trainer's son, Joseph, and it was clear at the top of the home straight the young rider was exuding confidence.

Once given his head, the market leader showed a brilliant turn of foot to run to the lead and only had to be pushed out in the final furlong to score by four-and-a-half lengths. Ed Dunlop's Red Cadeaux came from the back to claim the runner-up spot.

O'Brien junior said: "When he goes to sleep early in his races, he's a very special horse. He has always shown a lot of ability and he's really coming back to his old form.

"When he relaxes and quickens up like that, it takes a very good one to go near him."

The winning trainer said: "I'm delighted with that. He got him into a lovely rhythm and he was nice and relaxed. He's got a lot of class.

"The Prince of Wales's (at Royal Ascot) is an option along with the King George and the Arc, all those races, but the lads will decide.

"It took him a long time to come back to himself but he's back there now. I'd have no problem with him running over 10 furlongs as he's not short of speed."

John Best's Stone Of Folca sprang a 50/1 shock in the Investec Specialist Bank "Dash" under Luke Morris, and in a lightning-fast time for the five furlongs officially deemed the quickest since the introduction of electronic timing.

Meanwhile, officials at Catterick were forced to abandon the final two races of yesterday afternoon's meeting due to unsafe conditions.

The first five races took place, but after a horse fell on pulling up after the fifth race, a course inspection was called. Clerk of the course Fiona Needham said: "Obviously the ground is pretty quick and then we had a sharp shower which has just made the surface slippery on top."

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