Tuesday, April 27, 2010

St Nicholas Abbey

St Nicholas Abbey

In 1627, the British Navy colonised the Caribbean island of Barbados. At the time, most dwelling houses on the island consisted of locally-felled timber; this was not the case for the magnificent three-storey sugar plantation mansion belonging to George Nicholas. The house was made from bricks and limestone, a mahogany tree-lined avenue led up to its doors and its expansive gardens offered peace and a haven from busy island life. It was from this spiritual essence that the mansion was called “St Nicholas Abbey”.

At the Tattersalls October Yearling Book 1 Sale in 2008, a bay yearling colt was bought by Demi O’ Byrne on behalf of John Magnier. Sold on behalf of Oaks Farm Stables, the yearling was out of Montjeu and Leaping Water. Magnier named the colt St Nicholas Abbey, he is currently trained by Aidan O’ Brien and remains unbeaten after three starts. He holds the mantle of stable star at Ballydoyle and is a very short-priced favourite for both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby. St Nicholas Abbey was also last season’s champion two year old. He won his maiden in impressive style over a mile at the Curragh by a widening four lengths. Quickly stepped up to Group 2 Company, he then took the Juddmonte Beresford Stakes over a mile again at the Curragh, staying on gamely in the finish at cramped odds of 2/5f.

O’Brien then upped the colt in class again, this time to Group 1 Company where he contested the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. As many punters know, this race is a proving ground for Derby winners with three of the last eight winners, Authorized, Motivator and High Chaparral, all subsequently winning the Derby. In the Racing Post Trophy, the colt was given a very confident ride by Johnny Murtagh, he was stone last two furlongs from home but sluiced through gaps in the field and was already in front a furlong out. He went on to win in effortless style, the race simply settled in a matter of astonishingly quick strides. He did in fact run the two furlongs in around 22 seconds; this was an exceptional time on ground that was officially Good to Soft. He was a very popular winner on the day, backed into 13/8 favourite from an opening show of 2/1; indeed these may well be the largest odds he can be backed at in his career.

Following his electric display at Doncaster, the horse was then put away for the winter, three races in three months, August, September, October, a maiden, Group 2, Group 1. Job done.

At a recent stable tour of Ballydole, Aidan O’ Brien was quick to praise St Nicholas Abbey noting “he has an excellent temperament and has always been incredibly natural in everything he does”. O’ Brien may have 150 horses in training at his world-class Rosegreen facility but none have wintered as well as the 3 year old colt who he has noted “matured in all the right places”. Opinions about the colt were widely unanimous with the British Horseracing Authority handicapper Matthew Tester describing St Nicholas Abbey as "a really significant champion".

The colt is also the first Racing Post Trophy winner to top the handicap classifications since Celtic Swing in 1994; Tester awarded St Nicholas Abbey a rating of 124. It may also be worth noting that this rating is greater than that of previous winners of the race, Authorized, Motivator and High Chaparral, all of whom went on to win the Derby, all who were in the 116-117 bracket.

St Nicholas Abbey is by Montjeu who has an exceptional strike rate with middle-distance runners. Leaping Water; the dam of St Nicholas Abbey was unraced, in 1993 she was sold for 3,200 guineas at the Tattersalls July Sale. Leaping Water was by Sure Blade who won a QEII over a mile. St Nicholas Abbey’s granddam Flamenco Wave was a top class two year old, winning the Moyglare Stakes for John Oxx. She has been a major success at stud, becoming dam of Group 1 winners Starborough (by Soviet Star), Aristotle (Sadler’s Wells) and Ballingarry (Sadler’s Wells).

If you are searching for a negative, there is one, concerning of all things, his foaling date. If St Nicholas Abbey (born on April 13, 2007) were to win at Newmarket on May 1st, he would become the latest-foaled winner of the 2000 guineas since Lester Piggott aboard Rodrigo de Triano in 1992. There are of course, exceptions to every rule and St Nicholas has the speed, stamina and ability to buck most trends.
As was much publicised, last year, Sea The Stars became the first horse since Nashwan in 1989 to complete the Guineas-Derby double. St Nicholas Abbey has already surpassed what Sea The Stars achieved at two, he has huge talent and potential and a blistering turn of foot. The positives are topped up by reports from Ballydoyle that he is working very well at home.

There is no question that Aidan O’Brien and his team will have him primed for May 1st at Newmarket when the first leg of that double should be achieved.

Then we will talk about a Triple Crown.


2 pts win for 2000 Guineas @ 7/4
2 pts win for Epson Derby @ 2/1
1 pt win double for 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby @ 15/2

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