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O’Brien plays it safe on St Nick

St Nicholas Abbey will not be part of champion trainer Aidan O'Brien's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby team later this month as the Montjeu colt, which is recovering from a muscle injury, is to be held in reserve for an autumn campaign.

Withdrawn from the Epsom Derby, last season's leading juvenile is being rested and will be brought back to race-fitness gradually at Ballydoyle for the second half of the season “with Arc Trials in mind.”

“The four colts in the mix for the Curragh are At First Sight, Cape Blanco, Jan Vermeer and Midas Touch,” according to the champion trainer yesterday as the third year of Dubai Duty Free as title sponsor was marked by a K Club reception.

At First Sight, on which Seamie Heffernan excelled as 100/1 runner-up to the impressive Workforce, had favourite Jan Vermeer back in fourth, with Midas Touch fifth and only Godolphin's supplemented Rewilding (third) preventing Ballydoyle from completing a clean sweep of the places for the second year on the trot.

The three-day Derby festival commences on Friday, June 25 with the Saw Doctors playing live after this evening session. The Audi Pretty Polly Stakes is the Saturday afternoon feature and Dubai Duty Free are backing four other races on Derby day as well as the premier Irish Classic.

Meanwhile, Steinbeck looks the pick of O'Brien five possible runners in next week's St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, with Ballydoyle stablemates Beethoven, Encompassing, Fencing Master, and Viscount Nelson also entered.

English 2,000 Guineas winner Makfi heads the 15 entries with Richard Hannon's Canford Cliffs set to reoppose.

Elsewhere, Kilkenny owners Michael and Declan Phelan have been banned from racing in England for 12 months each by the British Horseracing Authority for laying Itsallaracket to lose at Folkestone in December 2008.

The BHA disciplinary panel held an inquiry to look into events surrounding the Romney Marsh Mares' NH Flat Race, where the mare was pulled-up as the 5-4 favourite.

The Phelans had bought Itsallaracket the previous month and entered into a lease agreement with Curragh trainer Seamus Lynch, stating all earnings and costs accrued until the end of the season were to be Lynch's.

However, they were reminded that under British rules, even lessors within the term ‘owners' or those who have leased a horse to someone else, are not allowed to bet against it.

Racing across the water must brace itself for another major corruption inquiry with Newmarket trainer Jeff Pearce, Irish jockey Jerry O'Dwyer and former Classic-winning trainer Geoff Huffer among eight people facing an array of BHA charges related to the running and riding of Sabre Light in a claimer at Lingfield in December 2008.

Sabre Light was uneasy on the exchanges before his bid for a four-timer — in which he drifted to 7/2 second favourite before finishing fifth under O'Dwyer — and the BHA immediately launched an investigation.

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