Sunday 21 January 2018

Abbey poised for Curragh comeback

Unraced since finishing sixth behind the now retired Makfi in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier this season, St Nicholas Abbey could make his eagerly awaited reappearance to the racecourse for competitive action at the Curragh on Sunday afternoon.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Group One winner featured among 22 entries for the Go Racing In Kildare Finale Stakes over 1m4f at HQ on Sunday and is likely to take his place once connections are happy with his work later in the week.

St Nicholas Abbey had been touted as this year's version of Sea The Stars following his win in the Racing Post Trophy as a juvenile. However, despite being the short-priced favourite for the Epsom Derby in the ante-post books, he was given an autumn target by O'Brien and would now have to be expected to feature on Ballydoyle's battalion to go to the Breeder's Cup.

Sunday's fixture is the first of a two-day meeting at the Curragh which is followed by two days at Punchestown as their jumps action returns on Wednesday and Thursday of next week, before Naas complete the 'Go Racing In Kildare' week with a mixed card including the prestigious Birdcatcher Nursery and the listed Garnet Stakes.

At Tipperary yesterday there were further signs of the jump season gathering even more momentum with Shark Hanlon taking the second division of the Visit Tipperary Maiden Hurdle courtesy of Hidden Cyclone.

A winner on both his starts now, he had previously won a bumper and ran out a seven-length winner in the hands of Andrew McNamara, who continues to lead at the jockeys' championship in Ireland at this early stage.

Hanlon has high hopes for the son of Stowaway and earmarked Galway at the end of the month before a step up in class to the Grade One Barry And Sandra Kelly Memorial Hurdle at Navan.

Grade One-winning jockey Alain Cawley returned to action following injury and his first ride back in the saddle was a winning one as Paul Nolan exited the cold trainers' list as Far Away So Close carried the colours of Gigginstown Stud to victory in the first division of that maiden hurdle.

A step up in trip is now expected and the winner is from the family of former Cheltenham Festival winner Newmill.

Rarely does Charles Byrnes saddle a 16/1 winner, nor does Robbie McNamara ride one at those odds, but that duo combined to take the bumper with Another Chieftain, who had a length to spare at the death and the winner is a half brother to the talented chaser Trafford Lad who, incidentally, could make his return to action at Down Royal next month for trainer Lar Butler.ss

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