St Nicholas Abbey loses his long battle

St Nicholas Abbey, the six-time Group One winner and Europe's champion two-year-old of 2009, had to be put down yesterday due to a colic attack. It was the final blow to a horse that had been continually fighting life-threatening injuries for almost the last six months since fracturing a pastern in July on the gallops at Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle stables.

The seven-year-old son of champion sire Montjeu was immediately retired from a racing career that saw him win nine of his 21 starts for O'Brien and hopes were high he could be saved for a stallion career at his owner's Coolmore Stud in Co Tipperary.

St Nicholas Abbey successfully battled a colic attack soon after an operation to insert a pin in his canon-bone, and survived when that pin, which helped to support his weight, broke. In recent months he also had been battling laminitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of sensitive layers of tissue inside the hoof.

Hopes had risen recently he could be saved for breeding purposes but a Coolmore Stud statement said yesterday: “Regretfully St Nicholas Abbey has lost his brave battle after suffering a colic this morning. Surgery revealed a severe strangulating colon torsion that was unviable and he had to be euthanised on humane grounds.


"This is extremely unfortunate as St Nicholas Abbey had been in terrific form, the laminitis was resolving very well, and the fracture had healed better than expected."

Spectacular success
St Nicholas Abbey looked to have the racing world at his feet in the spring of 2010 after an unbeaten three-race career as a two-year-old that ended with a spectacular success in the Racing Post Trophy.

Favourite for both the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, a double completed by Sea The Stars the previous season, he started an evens favourite for the mile classic at Newmarket but could finish only sixth behind Makfi in what turned out to be his sole start of 2010.

Off the track for almost a year, he became a star older performer for O’Brien, including landing an unprecedented hat-trick of victories in Epsom’s Coronation Cup, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs and last year’s Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, which enabled him to become Europe’s leading money earner with almost €6 million.

The horse named after a plantation house in Barbados had been ridden in his final dozen starts by Joseph O’Brien, who enjoyed his first global recognition when St Nicholas Abbey scored in the Breeders’ Cup.

Coolmore’s statement added: “We would like to thank the multitude of well-wishers and messages of support for St Nicholas Abbey. He will be buried in the graveyard here at Coolmore.”

Both Tony Martin and Charles Byrnes are trainers famously to be reckoned with in big handicaps and bookmakers are certainly taking no chances with them ahead of the first high-profile handicap of 2014, the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday week. Martin's Quick Jack was immediately installed an 8/1 favourite for the €100,000 feature when 38 entries were left in the two-mile race yesterday. The Byrnes-trained Sea Light was made a 10/1 shot.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column