Pacemaker upsets St Nicholas Abbey and Aidan O'Brien


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The Independent Online

Whether you are a mouse, a man or an O'Brien, your best-laid schemes can go agley. Young Joseph of the latter ilk may have given Camelot an inch-perfect ride to take the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday, but two days later at the Curragh he for once seemed to get the fractions wrong on one of the Ballydoyle older stars, St Nicholas Abbey.

Embarassingly, he failed to catch his trailblazing stablemate, the 66-1 shot Windsor Palace, on the strong-finishing 2-5 favourite. But whereas second strings do win – as did another from the Co Tipperary yard, 25-1 shot Homecoming Queen in the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday – the difference was that Windsor Palace owed his victory largely to jockey misjudgement.

The seven-year-old, who has only a maiden success five years ago to his name, has earned his corn at Ballydoyle for the past two seasons as pacemaker, a role he admirably fulfilled for So You Think in the same race, the 10-furlong Group Three Mooresbridge Stakes, 12 months previously, for miler Excelebration at the Co Kildare track last month and which he took on again yesterday with another hare, Robin Hood.

But as Robin Hood, as per script, dropped away in the straight, Windsor Palace kept going under Colm O'Donoghue. St Nicholas Abbey, 10 lengths off the pace on the turn for home, was making ground with every stride through the final furlong, but a horse rated nearly two stone his inferior still had a length in hand at the line.

St Nicholas Abbey, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Turf and second in the Sheema Classic at the end of March, was warming up for next month's Coronation Cup at Epsom. In mitigation, it could be pointed out that the five-year-old's senior top-level wins have come at 12 furlongs, that the ground was much softer than ideal and that much more experienced rider Johnny Murtagh, on the only other runner given any chance, the third-placed Sharestan, made the same mistake in giving the leaders too much rope.

"We know St Nicholas Abbey isn't a heavy-ground horse," said Aidan O'Brien, trainer of the first two and father of the runner-up's rider, "and he'd had a break after Dubai, and on his first run back we didn't want to murder him, just see how he was coping with the ground and go through the gears gently and let him find himself. We'd have been happier if he'd won, but he didn't, and sometimes that happens. But he ran a lovely race under the conditions and it's the Coronation Cup next."

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Deireadh Re (4.0 Fakenham)

Fortunate to win a Grade Two hurdle, but smart nonetheless. Has experience over fences in point-to-points.

Next best: Chookie Royale (7.10 Catterick)

Finished last year on upward curve.

One to watch: Rock A Doodle (William Jarvis) Gelded since last term, suffered traffic problems on his comeback at Newmarket on Sunday.

Where the money's going: Overturn is now favourite for tomorrow's Chester Cup, 9-2 from 11-2 with Betfred.