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O'Brien hoping he can Nich it

YET again this weekend Aidan O'Brien goes on a quest for Group One honours and again he will be clocking up a few air miles to do so with runners in two different countries.

Last Saturday there were Group One candidates in action at Newmarket, Belmount Park in America and Chantilly in France, with the latter yielding success as Imperial Monarch landed the Grand Prix de Paris under Joseph O'Brien.

Tomorrow's King George looks to be one of the more competitive renewals in recent years with five different countries represented in the 10-runner field, while Sunday's Irish Oaks at the Curragh also looks tough to call with some strong contenders from both sides of the Irish Sea.

St Nicholas Abbey is the Ballydoyle representative in tomorrow's Ascot feature, but the four-time Group One winner will have to be at his very best if he is to add a fifth and most prestigious win of his career.

Last year's King George winner, Nathaniel, heads the list of rivals against St Nicholas Abbey and John Gosden's four-year-old bounced back into the swing of things with a winning seasonal debut in the Coral-Eclipse just a fortnight ago.

Nathaniel held the Godolphin colt Farhh on that occasion and his rider, William Buick, said: "It's a big ask for the horse. All signs are good so far but I suppose you don't know until the actual day."


Gosden also runs last year's St Leger winner, Masked Marvel, and he has booked the services of Frankie Dettori for that spare ride although he has seven-and-three-parts of a length to make up on St Nicholas Abbey from their Epsom meeting back on Derby weekend. Joseph O'Brien acknowledged the challenge of Nathaniel last night but said of his mount St Nicholas Abbey: "Nathaniel seems to have improved from last season, but so has my horse."

The current leading jockey in Ireland added: "He won well the last time and seems in good form. Hopefully it will dry out for him - he wouldn't want it too soft."

Such is the quality of this year's King George that it has also attracted a Melbourne Cup winner in Dunaden, a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner in Danedream and other high rated colts such as Michael Stoute's Sea Moon and Japanese Derby winner Deep Brillante.


After drifting and proving very easy to back earlier in the week, support now seems to be building about St Nicholas Abbey and that could be significant although many will gauge their bets carefully before over-indulging in such a highly competitive contest as tomorrow's race should prove to be.