JOCKEY Johnny Murtagh hailed St Nicholas Abbey as “potentially one of the best I’ve ever ridden” after the multiple Group 1 winner died yesterday.
The brilliant seven-year-old, winner of six races at the highest level, including three Coronation Cups at Epsom, had to be put down after he suffered another bout of colic. Murtagh was stable jockey at Ballydoyle when St Nicholas Abbey burst onto the scene as an unbeaten two-year-old – a campaign which included a breathtaking display in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
A disappointing effort in his sole three-year-old appearance in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket was the last time Murtagh rode the horse, but the jockey expressed delight that he went on to show his true class. He said: “He was one of the best I’ve ever ridden. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen for him as a three-year-old, but he has come back the last few years and shown everyone what a great horse he was. He was a top horse.”
Aidan O’Brien’s son of Montjeu faced a multitude of problems as he strived to recover from a fractured pastern he sustained last summer, when being prepared for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Just two days after he underwent a major leg operation at Fethard Equine Hospital last July, St Nicholas Abbey had to have emergency surgery to be treated for colic. He then had a further setback last August when it was discovered a steel weight-bearing pin in a cannon bone had broken, after which he suffered another serious blow two months later when he developed “mild laminitic changes in the left fore”.
Coolmore said St Nicholas Abbey will be buried at its graveyard in County Tipperary. A statement read: “Regretfully St Nicholas Abbey has lost his brave battle after suffering a colic this morning. Coolmore would like to thank the surgeons, the international experts and all the staff at Fethard Equine Hospital who gave him such excellent care 24-7.
“We would also like to thank the multitude of well-wishers for all the cards and messages of support for St Nicholas Abbey. He will be buried in the graveyard here at Coolmore.”
St Nicholas Abbey built up a fantastic relationship with the trainer’s son, Joseph, in the latter part of his career. O’Brien Jnr rode him to two Coronation Cup triumphs and also secured notable victories on the worldwide stage in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf and in the 2013 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan. St Nicholas Abbey’s third Coronation triumph last June – his final racecourse appearance – took his career earnings to almost £5 million.