DUBAI // St Nicholas Abbey produced a record-breaking run under Joseph O'Brien to win the Dubai Sheema Classic in his second attempt and provide a double on the night for the trainer Aidan O'Brien.
St Nicholas Abbey had gone down by a neck to Cirrus Des Aigles in the US$5 million (Dh18.4m) race 12 months ago but there was no stopping the six-year-old son of Montjeu this time. He won in a track-record time of two minutes, 27.70 seconds.
Joseph O'Brien tried a new tactic of keeping him just behind the leader and it worked for the 19-year-old son of the Ballydoyle trainer. "There didn't seem much pace on paper," the winning jockey said, and credited Derrick Smith, part of the ownership group, with the idea that "maybe we should ride him a bit further forward and see what happens".
He added: "This horse is very tough, very special, gives his best every day, relaxes, and finds plenty. It turns out you can ride him any way you want."
O'Brien had St Nicholas Abbey handily placed behind the front running Shareta, ridden by Christophe Lemaire, with Yasunari Iwata on Gentildonna in third and John Murtagh on Royal Diamond in fourth over the 2,410m trip on the turf.
This order did not change until they approached the final bend. O'Brien urged St Nicholas Abbey to go in front and they were immediately joined by Gentildonna, the Japanese horse, and the two were clear from the rest on the home stretch.
St Nicholas Abbey, however, had plenty left and pulled away in the final 100m to win by more than two lengths.
"I had always felt this horse wanted to be ridden back but Joseph and Derrick [Smith] said they wanted him to be ridden forward and they got their way today, so perhaps they were right," the winning trainer said.
The Japanese jockey acknowledged they were beaten by a better horse on the night. "She ran very well and was in good form. She travelled wide and might have taken the bit and that's why she couldn't catch the winner. But that shouldn't take anything away from the winner," Iwata said.
Very Nice Name, owned by Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa, came with a late run to snatch third ahead of Dunaden. Godolphin's two entries - Sharestan and Prince Bishop - were trailed to the finish only by the second Japanese runner, Trailblazer.
"Very Nice Name gave me a good finish," said Olivier Peslier, the jockey. "Third place is very good and he sets the standard in Qatar. I was expecting him to run well and I'm very happy for my boss."
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