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Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (Group One)
A race won by many of the top sprinting sires on the current scene over the past fifteen years, surprisingly though it has only gone back to Ballydoyle four times in this century, a low return given their usual domination of the Group scene for juveniles. A six furlong Group 1 for colts, our expert preview for the 2017 Middle Park Stakes is below.
Despite not having overall dominance of this contest, it is still with Aidan O’Brien that we start and his Group 1 winner, Sioux Nation. That victory at the top table came at home in the Phoenix Stakes, backing up the smart impression he had made at Royal Ascot when claiming the Norfolk. He has plenty of speed, but now having proved himself over this sixth furlong at this highest level, it opens up plenty more options for his connections. He is reliant on quick ground which might be a slight doubt for Newmarket at the end of October, but that is a small chink in an otherwise strong set of armour.
Just half a length behind Sioux Nation in the Phoenix Stakes was Beckford, a strong advertisement for the flat training talents of Gordon Elliott. He had won his first two career starts prior to that contest, including when looking like a horse to follow when triumphing in the Railway Stakes. He didn’t pick up quite as well on the quicker surface in the Phoenix as he had the time before so ground conditions may be more in his favour at this time of year. He is less exposed than his Irish counterpart and with this track having an uphill finish, that should be in his favour as well.
Karl Burke has had another excellent season with his juveniles, led this summer on the continent by Unfortunately. Winner of the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin, he followed that up with an impressive display in the Prix Morny at Deauville. He hadn’t appeared to quite get home at Pontefract over six furlongs earlier in the campaign so it was testament to his maturity that it was no issue to him at all in France. He has had six races already but has continued to step forward each time There are no issues about a bit of autumn cut in the ground and now with no concerns over the trip, he looks to have a big part to play.
Winner of the Gimcrack in spectacular fashion was Sands Of Mali, a brutally efficient display of front running that blew that Group 2 field out the water. The form of his Nottingham novice win in a myracing sponsored contest had taken a big step forward in terms of form when the well beaten runner-up won a Listed race at Newbury the next time out. He may have gone off a big price in the Gimcrack, but his win was no surprise (not to us at least as we tipped him at 14/1) and this looks the logical next step for him. He has wins on both good and on soft ground so conditions should be no issue for him, if he can run these into the ground from the front, he could be a superstar in the making.
Barraquero is another who will have no issues on the ground front, a wide margin winner of a Chepstow Novice on good, he took the step up to Group 2 in his stride when landing the Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. He was less than four lengths behind Expert Eye on his debut, form that looks stronger now that that horse has jumped to the head of the 2000 Guineas market. The further he went at Goodwood the better he looked so a step up to seven furlongs will suit sooner or later, but he has the right mix of speed and strength to consider this stiff six furlongs perfect for now.
Declan Carroll has always held Santry in high regard. His runner-up effort to Sioux Nation in the Norfolk Stakes made it easy to see why. He was hampered as he tried to make his run before leading his group home on the stands side, just half a length adrift of the winner on the opposite side of the track. The step up to six furlongs will suit him on that display, with this mentioned as a potential end of season target after Ascot. Given that Sioux Nation boasts just about the strongest form in the line-up, this horse has got to be entitled to massive respect as he bids to go one better. He acts on any ground and looks another fascinating contender in what could be one of the best races we have seen this season.