Chris McGrath: Abbey habit can kick in as St Nicholas aims for the Stars

Inside Track

No, it doesn't quite work, the London bus analogy. Not unless you happen to have seen consecutive Routemasters cornering Piccadilly on two wheels, dazed passengers strewn in their wake, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button at the wheel.

But you get the idea. We stood impatiently at the bus stop for 20 years until Sea The Stars came along; and yet here, apparently, we have another colt already on the same route.

The number on the front, admittedly, will discourage a lot of punters from boarding St Nicholas Abbey in the Stan James 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket today. Last year, Sea The Stars started 8-1 for his first Classic. One firm this morning is offering just 9-1 that St Nicholas Abbey emulates his unprecedented treble of Guineas, Derby and Arc in the same season.

His odds for today are no better than 5-4, even though many pundits are keen to oppose him over a mile on quick ground – pending possible rain overnight – on the first day of May, fully six months before the Breeders' Cup. Some have also got it into their heads to worry about his stable's quiet spring, or about the wild notion that Steinbeck had been featuring more prominently on its bush telegraph, prior to the setback that keeps him at home today.

Maybe they have tuned into a different frequency. The message being received here, loud and clear, remains unchanged from last autumn. Aidan O'Brien has trained Classic winners by the dozen, including five in this race, and privately discloses such awe about the relative capacities of this colt that his innate caution is compounded by a dread of tempting fate.

And we can all identify with that. We can all suspect ourselves of asking for the moon, in immediately hailing a possible heir to the epoch- making talent of Sea The Stars. The stakes, for the sport, seem almost too seductive.

At the same time, equally, we should not look a gift horse in the mouth. So let's deal with the doubts muttered about St Nicholas Abbey.

First and foremost, it is astonishing that respected pundits should be fretting about Ballydoyle's low-key start to the campaign, and the need to preserve fuel for a long road ahead. This is such a stale red herring. O'Brien never pulls up trees in April, but has dependably produced horses like George Washington to explode first time out at Newmarket. St Nicholas Abbey's every step since the Racing Post Trophy last October has been directed with this afternoon in mind.

People are also warning that winners of that race tend to prove middle-distance specialists at three. Agreed, St Nicholas Abbey should have no problem staying a mile and a half in the Investec Derby. Indeed, if this talk of reviving the Triple Crown were to gain momentum, he looks pretty certain to stay the Ladbrokes St Leger trip, too. But his Doncaster performance was about unadulterated speed. They did not go terribly fast early on, but he eased through the field as though hacking down to the start. Those who witnessed his only public appearance since, when he worked at the Curragh in March, would be amazed should he be outpaced at any stage today.

As for this notorious hiatus, between Nashwan and Sea The Stars, the bottom line is that very few Guineas winners in the meantime were bred to stay. Only two years ago, New Approach came within an ace of completing the double, pulling four lengths clear over the Rowley Mile to share a photo with Henrythenavigator. The emergence of Montjeu and Galileo as dominant young stallions has radically altered the assumptions and ambitions of Classic trainers.

In any case, who do you want to back against him? Elusive Pimpernel is the most decisive trial winner, while Al Zir is evidently considered the best three-year-old in his powerful stable. But these same colts were comprehensively outgunned when second and third in the Racing Post Trophy, and Elusive Pimpernel was slashed in the betting only after doing what his form and odds all but guaranteed in the Craven Stakes.

Awzaan warrants respect, as an unbeaten Group One winner, and looks more likely to stay than many recent Middle Park winners. But stamina is a big question for Canford Cliffs, who owes his reputation both on the track and at home to raw speed, and for Inler.

As so often in the past, the biggest danger to a Ballydoyle champion could instead come from closer to home. For a novice, Fencing Master ran a blinder when he came over for the Dewhurst last autumn – running down Xtension on the outside – and the extra furlong is certain to suit. That form has a solid look. Those looking for improvers on more speculative grounds, meanwhile, should consider big prices about Mafki and Lord Zenith.

All being well, however, most of his rivals are going to end up resembling big, clumsy, double-decker buses as St Nicholas Abbey glides into top gear. This could be one hell of a ride. All aboard!

Seta has talent to set golden seal on Fallon's comeback

It was hard enough for Kieren Fallon to pick between two fillies in the Stan James 1,000 Guineas. The rest of us must choose from 18. Fallon, moreover, always acknowledged his obligations to Luca Cumani, trainer of Seta, and his rejection of Music Show was not necessarily a definitive statement on their respective chances tomorrow. Even so, he may yet be rewarded for his fidelity. He has a genuine regard for Seta, suspecting that she was just too raw to complete the job after pouncing in the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster last September. Though she has been a little slow to bloom, Seta apparently did so persuasively in a racecourse gallop last week.

Music Show's trainer anticipates plenty of improvement for her trial success under Fallon, albeit you would hope so, as Blue Maiden was arguably unlucky. Perhaps a bigger danger is Rumoush, another to have set a tricky dilemma by winning at the Craven meeting. Sheikh Hamdan decided to drop her a furlong in a bid to emulate her half-sister, Ghanaati, in this last year. Rumoush did show plenty of speed but both her trainer and jockey had seemed disposed to step her up in trip instead.

Special Duty, the winter favourite, made a most discouraging resumption in soft ground last month, her first attempt beyond six furlongs. She must now build on the speed that set her apart last year. The each-way value is Devoted To You, but Seta can set an unforgettable seal on Fallon's comeback. It seems safe to assume he will be hard to beat, should it come down to a duel with Music Show.

Turf Account: Chris McGrath

Nap

Mark Anthony (4.40 Thirsk)

May well have been kept for this race, the conditions of which suit him, having clicked when dropped to this trip on his third and final start in juvenile maidens.

Next best

Swilly Ferry (4.15 Newmarket)

Looked to have built on the foundations he laid at two when unlucky not to finish closer than fifth over course and distance on his comeback.

One to watch

Anne Of Kiev (J R Gask)

Again suggested a sixth furlong is suiting her well when trapped on the bridle throughout the critical stages of a handicap at Windsor on Monday.

Where the money's going

St Nicholas Abbey

Was all the rage on the eve of the Stan James 2,000 Guineas, Ladbrokes going evens from 11-8.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'