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Jordan McCarthy says goodbye to St. Nicholas Abbey and Snow Fairy, while also looking at this weekend’s King George.

Horse Racing needs big names to attract punters through the gates at race meetings. Two household names have been retired over the past week. Although the biggest race in the British racing calendar takes place this Saturday, the line-up has been robbed of ante-post favourite St. Nicholas Abbey and, after several setbacks and a decision to retire her, Snow Fairy.

There is a saying in sport that money cannot buy you success. If people want proof of this notion, look no further than Ed Dunlop’s star filly. Purchased for £1,800, and no I did not omit a zero (or two), Snow Fairy turned out to be something of a revelation.

She conquered the world over, from Ireland to Hong Kong, Britain to Japan. She is a dual Oaks winner and landed last season’s Irish Champion stakes.

When asked of his highlight, Dunlop stated that the Irish Champion Stakes, her final outing, was the pick of her victories. Let’s not forget that she placed in a very good Arc in 2011.

Down the field that day was St .Nicholas Abbey, who has also picked up a career ending injury this past week.

He was a champion at two and after a disappointing three-year-old campaign, he has become one of the leading middle-distance stars of the sport. He was set to contest this weekend’s highlight, the King George, but has now been sent for surgery.  It is hoped that he can be saved for a career at stud.

St. Nic has often been overlooked given the quality of many of his stablemates. Nevertheless, he is a six-time Group 1 winner. He has been victorious in the USA and in Dubai, as well as winning three Coronation Cups at Epsom.

As for Saturday’s showpiece, no doubt many will have fancied St.Nic to cement his place at the top of the middle-distance category. The world’s highest rated racehorse Cirrus Des Aigles is now the favourite for the mile and a half event. Second to Frankel at Ascot, the French raider bids to add to his Champion Stakes crown of 2011. The seven-year-old has amassed winnings of over £4million in his stellar career and connections will be confident as he has good form at the Berkshire track.

Up against him is his conqueror last time out, Novelist.  The German challenger has won seven of his nine starts picking up winnings of £450,000. He is an Italian Derby winner and is set to be ridden by Johnny Murtagh. He is a very talented sort and at four, there could be more to come.

The main Irish hope on Saturday is Trading Leather. Jim Bolger’s colt is the Irish Derby winner and it will be interesting to see how he copes against older horses. He is getting weight from his rivals as he is a three-year-old. Come Saturday evening that weight allowance could prove the difference. However, there are questions surrounding the quality of the horses he has beaten, given that the middle-distance classic crop are sub-standard.

It would be quite a story if Universal were to land the prize on Saturday. Trainer Mark Johnston’s horses are on fire at the minute and the son of Dubawi bids to give him Group 1 success here. Another man on song is jockey Ryan Moore who rides Hillstar. He has been supplemented following recommendations by trainer Sir Michael Stoute. That is no doubt a tip in itself.

There is undoubtedly a lack of quality in comparison to years gone by. It could still prove to be a thrilling contest, however. Cirrus Des Aigles has plenty in hand over his rivals, even though he finished behind Novelist last time out. Rain should help the French raider reverse the placings this time around. As he is a seven-year-old there are some doubts. However, a win on Champions day 2011 and a runner-up berth to Frankel at the Berkshire track make the world’s highest rated racehorse a worthy favourite.

The race has understandably been tarnished by the omission of Al Kazeem and the loss of both Snow Fairy and St.Nic.  Nevertheless, it is one of the most important contests in the racing year. Come 4 o’clock on Saturday that should still be the case.

Don’t forget that the Galway Festival and Glorious Goodwood share the stage next week.  For now, it’s up to Cirrus Des Aigles and Co. to show us what the King George is all about. Did somebody mention a Royal Baby?

Sport Is Everything. Jordan McCarthy.

Featured Image by monkeywing (Flickr: St Nicholas Abbey) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

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