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Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Wednesday, 2 June 2010 12:35 UK

St Nicholas Abbey ruled out of Epsom Derby

Investec Derby meeting, Epsom 4-5 June
Friday: Coronation Cup 1445 BST, Oaks 1605 Saturday: Derby 1600 Coverage: BBC TV, 5 live and BBC Sport website

St Nicholas Abbey winning the Racing Post Trophy in October 2009
St Nicholas Abbbey left his rivals trailing in the 2009 Racing Post Trophy

Long-time favourite St Nicholas Abbey will miss the Epsom Derby on Saturday because of a "slight muscle injury". The colt, trained by Aidan O'Brien, was market leader for seven months before support for stablemate Jan Vermeer.

"We always thought St Nicholas Abbey could walk on water and it is very unfortunate for all concerned," said Irish trainer O'Brien.

Meanwhile, three-time Derby winner Kieren Fallon has been booked to ride Al Zir for the Godolphin team.

Bookmakers estimate the absence of St Nicholas Abbey could cost ante-post backers up to £3m.

Rumours about the horse's well-being went into overdrive when O'Brien said on Friday that jockey Johnny Murtagh felt he did not "show the same sparkle" during a workout.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, the Irish trainer said the horse had been due to have a gallop when a slight muscle injury 'high up in his hind quarter' was discovered."

"This meant he could not work today and we were advised to give him an easy few days," said O'Brien.

"His work on Friday last was a little lacklustre for him and that was the first time we had seen anything different, but he was fine afterwards."

St Nicholas Abbey was one of six entries from 15 confirmations left in the Classic field on Monday.

As a two-year-old, he was a brilliant winner of the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, which extended his unbeaten juvenile record to three races.

He returned to the track last month in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, in which he finished sixth behind Makfi.

O'Brien still holds a strong hand at Epsom, however, with new favourite Jan Vermeer, the winner of the Gallinule Stakes.

The Ballydoyle trainer also has Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner Midas Touch, along with likely pacemakers At First Sight and Bright Horizon.

Dante Stakes victor Cape Blanco appears more likely to head for the French Derby at Chantilly on Sunday.

Fallon, who was stable jockey for O'Brien before being given an 18-month drugs ban in 2008, had been linked with picking up one of his spare rides after he partnering Viscount Nelson for the stable in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May.

Instead he will be aboard Al Zir, who finished ninth in the Guineas.

With Frankie Dettori aboard first-choice Rewilding and Ahmed Ajtebi on the surprise supplementary entry Buzzword, Godolphin called on Fallon for Al Zir, who was third in the Racing Post Trophy behind St Nicholas Abbey.

"Kieren Fallon's record in the Derby is excellent," Crisford told the Godolphin website.

"He was available and has ridden for Godolphin before."

Fallon has won the Derby three times on Oath (1999), Kris Kin (2003) and North Light (2004).

Derby odds: 13-8 Jan Vermeer (from 7-4), 11-2 Workforce (from 6), 6-1 Midas Touch (from 7), Bullet Train (from 8), 9-1 Rewilding, 12-1 Azmeel, Cape Blanco, 20-1 Coordinated Cut, 25-1 Al Zir, 40-1 Ted Spread, 66-1 Buzzword, Hot Prospect 150-1 At First Sight, 200-1 Bright Horizon (William Hill 0930 BST, Tuesday)

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see also
Abbey ousted as Derby favourite
28 May 10 |  Horse Racing
Hills lands spare Ted Spread ride
28 May 10 |  Horse Racing
Epsom Derby meeting schedule
07 May 10 |  Horse Racing
Workforce set to tackle the Derby
26 May 10 |  Horse Racing
BBC to show stewards' inquiries
26 May 10 |  Horse Racing

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