Wednesday 11 December 2019

Nicholas drifts out of favour

Thomas Kelly

PUNTERS are rapidly losing faith in St Nicholas Abbey, with the colt drifting markedly for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday as the rains descend on Ascot.

With dark clouds continuing to hover over the Berkshire track, St Nicholas Abbey is friendless in the ante-post market and has been pushed out to 9/4, while Workforce's position at the head of the betting continues to strengthen.

Michael Stoute's 2010 Derby winner is now 11/8 favourite, with several bookies reporting sustained support for the four-year-old.

"The support for Workforce, like the Ascot weather, shows no sign of drying up at present and last year's Derby winner is sure to start favourite on Saturday, although it's unlikely he will be sent off odds-on, as he was when disappointing in the race 12 months ago," said Coral's David Stevens.

Frankie Dettori's Rewilding remains a solid 11/4 third favourite and Godolphin's racing manager Simon Crisford said yesterday that they are keen to make the most of the presence of stablemate Debussy, which will act as a pacemaker.

"The key to Rewilding is that he needs to get into a rhythm. He has such a good turn of foot and that is why we'll probably be running a pacemaker," said Crisford. "He loves quickening up off a fast pace, it's no good to him if they crawl and then sprint. He hates a slow-run race.

With only a handful of runners due to line up for the £1m purse, an absence of cat-and-mouse tactics is likely to suit all the principals, each of which is a proper mile-and-a-half horse.

The fourth choice in the ante-post market is John Gosden's Nathaniel, which was supplemented at a cost of £75,000 and remains favourite for the St Leger, for which there were 36 entries yesterday.

Irish Derby hero Treasure Beach is among 10 entries for the Doncaster showpiece from trainer Aidan O'Brien, who has won the world's oldest Classic in the past with Milan (2001), Brian Boru (2003) and Scorpion (2005). Also among the Ballydoyle contingent is 'King George' entry Seville, runner-up to Treasure Beach in the Irish Derby before finishing two places in front of his stablemate when second to Meandre in last week's Grand Prix de Paris.

The O'Brien-trained Wonder Of Wonders was runner-up to Dancing Rain in the Epsom Oaks in June and was Classic placed again when third to

Blue Bunting in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh last Sunday. The remainder from the Ballydoyle stable are Admiral Of The Red, Apache, Freedom, Marksmanship, Memphis Tennessee, Monte Carlo and Regent Street.

Five St Leger possibles are among 13 entries for the Bet365 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood on Tuesday.

Fiorente, Namibian, Slumber, Dordogne and Well Sharp could book places at Doncaster in September with good performances in the Group Two contest.

The progressive Fiorente, trained by Stoute, is the shortest-priced for the St Leger among the quintet after finishing strongly to take second place behind Nathaniel in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Namibian drops markedly back in trip after winning the Queen's Vase over two miles at the Royal meeting. His trainer Mark Johnston is also responsible for Dordogne in the mile-and-a-half contest, as well as non-Leger entries Hurricane Higgins and Malthouse.

Meanwhile, Howard Johnson could be fighting for his training career as he answers serious charges at a British Horseracing Authority inquiry.

The Durham handler is in London for the hearing after admitting to running a horse that had undergone a palmar neurectomy while under his care.

The neurectomy to the horse's left foreleg came to light following a post-mortem carried out on Striking Article after the horse was pulled up and euthanised at Musselburgh on February 7 last year

The procedure involves severing nervous connection to the lower leg to cause numbness. It is banned under the Rules of Racing on welfare grounds.

Striking Article underwent the procedure in April 2008 yet ran eight times afterwards. Johnson claims he was unaware of the rule that states he should not have run the horse.

Johnson has also been charged under a separate investigation in relation to the administration of laurabolin, an anabolic steroid containing nandrolone, to three other horses under his care -- Whisky Mac, Mintaka Pass and Montoya's Son.

The case started yesterday morning and is expected to last two days. It is unlikely there will be a decision released at the close of play today.

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