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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'