Competitive Middle Park Stakes could throw up rival to Pinatubo

O’Brien triple-handed as he bids to maintain proud record in Beresford Stakes

Colin Keane on Siskin who was able to overcome unsuitable soft ground and beat off Monarch Of Egypt in the the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Racing’s newest superstar, Pinatubo, may look to have two-year-old championship honours sewn up but Saturday’s Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket could yet throw up a worthy rival.

Pinatubo’s spectacular nine-length rout in the Curragh’s National Stakes earlier this month means he is the official highest rated juvenile in a quarter of a century, earning him comparisons to luminaries such as Frankel in the process.

The latter burst on the scene in 2010 although it’s worth recalling how he shared two-year-old championship honours that season. That’s because Dream Ahead’s own nine-length demolition in the Middle Park also got the rating system into a spin.

Dream Ahead couldn’t match Frankel’s subsequent career but was a multiple Group One winner and champion sprinter himself.


The last two of Aidan O’Brien’s record six Middle Park winners, US Navy Flag and Ten Sovereigns, matured into top sprinters too although Saturday’s field appears to contain a number of genuine classic prospects.

Godolphin’s Prix Morny winner Earthlight is joined by another unbeaten Group One winner in Ger Lyons’s Siskin while a fly in the ointment is Mums Tipple who turned a valuable sales race at York into an 11-length procession last month.

His stable companion Threat is a Gimcrack and Champagne Stakes winner while there’s a Ballydoyle trio that are unusually long in the betting but which include two ultra-promising sorts in Monarch Of Egypt and Lope Y Fernandez.

Given the depth of the race a decisive win for any of them would see odds for next year’s Guineas tumble and possibly even encourage hopes of a championship decider with Pinatubo a fortnight later in the Dewhurst.

Siskin looks the main Irish challenger in a tripartite tussle at the top of the betting.

Soft ground

Owned by the race sponsor he was able to overcome unsuitable soft ground and beat off Monarch Of Egypt in the Phoenix. That suggests an adaptability and class that could make him hard to beat.

Lyons is one of four Irish trainers also represented in Saturday’s Group One Cheveley Park Stakes for fillies.

He runs the supplemented Nurse Barbara who drops back to six furlongs while Sheila Lavery and Jessica Harrington are represented by Lil Grey and Millisle respectively.

Aidan O’Brien is going for four in a row in the race and has both Tango and Etoile who don’t appear to be among the front rank of Ballydoyle’s juvenile team.

Lyons has repeatedly put it up to Ballydoyle this season and the strength of his juvenile team could be underlined back on home ground in Sunday’s Beresford Stakes at the Curragh.

Camorra won his only start at Killarney during the summer and should improve significantly for the experience.

He faces a major task however in a historic race that O’Brien has won for the last eight years and on 18 occasions in all.

If there's one to follow in some illustrious footsteps this time it may be Innisfree who showed a good attitude to win his maiden at Galway in the summer.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column