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Sheema Classic: St Nicholas Abbey in focus
by Geir Stabell / Globeform
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Joseph O'Brien, son of the famous Irish trainer Aidan, became the youngest jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race in America when riding St. Nicholas Abbey to success in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs last year. On World Cup night, the combination will try to follow up in the Sheema Classic (G1), a race run over 2400 metres, roughly the same distance as the BC Turf.

Joseph was just 18 as he enjoyed a smooth win on St. Nicholas Abbey in Kentucky, and he had ridden a classic winner back home in Ireland six months earlier, when he partnered Roderic O'Connor in the Irish 2,000 Guineas (G1) at The Curragh. His rise as a top jockey has been a fast one. He rode his first race just two and a half years before hitting the spotlights at the 2011 Breeders' Cup. When your father is Aidan O'Brien, the foundation is there of course, but his achievements in the saddle last season were incredible nevertheless. Pedigrees matter also for riders, though when the gates open in a horserace, well, then a jockey is pretty much out on his own.

St Nicholas Abbey and young Joseph struck up a good partnership during training on the Ballydoyle gallops last summer, and he was entrusted with the ride when the colt went for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) at Ascot in July also billed Europe's midsummer championship race. They finished third, behind the William Buick ridden Nathaniel and Ryan Moore's mount Workforce, winner of the Derby (G1) in England in 2010. Joseph made no mistakes. Therefore the job was his again when we got to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) in Paris in October. This is the race in Europe. The competition was even stronger than at Ascot of course, and St Nicholas Abbey took fifth, 6 lengths behind the surprise German winner Danedream. Another game effort.

These were demanding races for St Nicholas Abbey, and he had also landed the Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom in June, when Ryan Moore rode him. The son of Montjeu must be tough, to have been able to keep his form, both physically and mentally, for a big run in North America on November 5, seven months after he had made his seasonal debut at Chester in England.

This five-year-old comes to Meydan with a serious winning chance. Having missed most of his three-year-old season due to a setback, he has a low mileage and St Nicholas Abbey may well improve again this year.

Globeform 122

Published: 2012-03-26 08:39:45

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