Windsor Palace caused a huge upset by holding off his esteemed stablemate St Nicholas Abbey to clinch the High Chaparral European Breeders Fund Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien landed this Group Three prize for the past two seasons with proven top-class performers Fame And Glory and So You Think, and multiple Group One winner St Nicholas Abbey was the 2-5 favourite to complete the hat-trick.
Having signed off his 2011 campaign with a brilliant performance in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and finished a narrow second in the Dubai Sheema Classic two months ago, this appeared to represent an ideal opportunity for the five-year-old to find the target.
Joseph O’Brien, fresh from his sparkling performance in the saddle on Camelot in Saturday’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, was happy to sit third as stable companions Windsor Palace and Robin Hood set a strong gallop.
The two of them had opened up a big lead on the rest of the field rounding the home turn, but both O’Brien and Johnny Murtagh on second-favourite Sharestan were happy to let them go.
However, a couple of furlongs later it was evident that the front pair were not stopping and although the market principals were making good late ground, it proved all too late.
Windsor Palace (66-1) and Colm O’Donoghue passed the post with a length in hand over St Nicholas Abbey, with Sharestan grabbing third from Robin Hood.
O’Brien said: “He (Windsor Palace) had a good run here the last day (third behind Excelebration) and he’s a soft ground horse.
“We knew St Nicholas Abbey wasn’t a heavy ground horse, everyone knows that. Joseph just let him find himself there and it was his first run back after Dubai.
“He (St Nicholas Abbey) ran a lovely race and we’re delighted with him. Sometimes it happens, they don’t get through that ground, that’s the way it is, that’s racing. We are happy with the horse and hopefully he will come forward from it.
“You’d be happier if he won but he didn’t, but there’s always another day.
“The Coronation Cup will be next for him.”
A stewards’ inquiry was held into the running and riding of St Nicholas Abbey, and after viewing the video of the race and considering the evidence, the officials noted the explanations offered by both trainer and jockey with reference to the horse being unsuited by the ground.