O’Brien has high hopes for Abbey

Joseph O’Brien is hoping St Nicholas Abbey will handle the expected soft ground when he returns to action at the Curragh on Monday.

O’Brien, 18, enjoyed one of the biggest successes of his riding career so far on that horse, trained by his father, Aidan, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November.

The pair went down by a quarter of a length to Cirrus Des Aigles in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March, but the winner has since landed an impressive victory in the Prix Ganay.

Now St Nicholas Abbey bids to go one better down in grade and in distance in the Group Three High Chaparral EBF Mooresbridge Stakes over a mile and a quarter.

“He ran a blinder in Dubai on his first run of the year and the form has been franked since by the winner in France,” said O’Brien junior.

“If the ground is very soft at the Curragh it won’t be ideal for him. I think he’s still improving. Hopefully he can come back to that very high level.”

Meanwhile, John Oxx admits his leading Derby hope Akeed Mofeed will not be as fit as he would like if he makes his belated seasonal reappearance in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown on Sunday week.

The three-year-old missed his intended comeback target at Leopardstown last month after suffering a setback.

“He cantered last Monday week and then did some fast work this week,” said Oxx. “We hope to run him in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown, but it is coming up too soon. He would certainly want another week, but if we can get him there fit enough to run a good race we’d be hoping to run.”

* Richard Hughes is set to miss the Betfred Dante Stakes at York on May 17 after picking up a one-day ban for careless riding on Big Wave in the totequickpick Fillies’ Handicap at Lingfield yesterday.


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