Career ends for six-time Group 1 winner after he suffers a fracture while preparing for King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Ascot, writes Geoffrey Riddle.
St Nicholas Abbey suffers career-ending injury in horse racing
The twists and turns in the lead-up to Saturday's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes continued on Tuesday when St Nicholas Abbey was ruled out of Europe's summer showpiece with a career-ending injury.
St Nicholas Abbey was on course for a clash at Ascot with Cirrus Des Aigles, a fellow Dubai Sheema Classic winner, but was injured in routine work on Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle gallops in Ireland on Tuesday.
Veterinarians were called to the scene in an effort to rescue the six-year-old, who could have a lucrative stud career.
Late in the afternoon, Coolmore Stud farm tweeted: "St Nicholas Abbey suffered a fractured pastern during a routine piece of work at Ballydoyle this morning. He is currently in a comfortable condition at Fethard Equine Hospital, where he is scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning."
St Nicholas Abbey's victory at Meydan racecourse in Dubai in March was his fifth success at the Group 1 level, which he added to with an historic third victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June.
The son of Montjeu, the 1999 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, also scored at Group 1 level when taking the Breeders' Cup Turf in 2011 and accumulated just shy of Dh28 million in prize money.
St Nicholas Abbey was seen as the most likely winner of the 12-furlong event, and with Cirrus Des Aigles left without a realistic rival, connections behind Universal decided to give their horse a chance and confirmed the four-year-old colt's participation.
Universal was an impressive winner of the Princess Of Wales' Stakes at Newmarket two weeks ago and is owned by the London-based UAE businessman Abdullah Al Mansoori.
After Universal had spread-eagled the field at Newmarket, Bruce Raymond, Al Mansoori's racing manager, had reported that it was the easiest assignment of the 10 races Universal had contested in 2013.
There had been some post-race talk about perhaps saving Universal for the lucrative autumn international programme, but the trainer Mark Johnston hopes his horse can continue his fine form.
"I spoke to Mark Johnston and Universal is in top form," Raymond said. "All is good with the horse and Mark is very happy with him.
"Obviously, he has got a bit to find on ratings, but has made tremendous progress so far this season and is a horse going the right way, so it makes sense to have a go with him."
Novellist, the German raider, was left in the race at Monday's confirmation stage, but without a rider. On Tuesday, however, trainer Andreas Wohler said that Johnny Murtagh would be in the saddle.
Wohler had hoped to book Ryan Moore, but those hopes were dashed when Sir Michael Stoute supplemented Hillstar, who won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, at a cost of £75,000 (Dh423,000) on Monday.
Wohler then turned his attentions to William Buick, but he is now required to ride for John Gosden elsewhere, so Murtagh was the next in line.
Murtagh secured his 100th Group 1 victory when partnering Ambivalent to win the Pretty Polly Stakes in Ireland last month and should Novellist become the second successive German winner after Danedream, it would be the Irishman's fourth win in the race.
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