Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes
|Group 1, Newmarket 15:30
6f, Class 1
|Saturday 24th September 2016|
1 The Last Lion 25/1
2 Blue Point 11/10F
3 Mehmas 6/1
10 ran Distances: ¾l, 2¼l, ½l
TIME 1m 12.13s (slow by 2.13s)
The Last Lion showed astonishing resolution to surprise the big guns in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at 25/1.
Since winning the Brocklesby Stakes in bottomless ground on the very first day of the season, The Last Lion has shown himself to be a tough and consistent sprinter, and he fought off the challenge of hotpot Blue Point to land this Group One prize.
In victory, he was providing Mark Johnston's number one jockey Joe Fanning with a first Group One victory on his 46th birthday.
To the fore from the start, Fanning was able to set reasonable fractions, but accelerated from two furlongs out. That burst of speed was enough to see off his nearest challengers, but Blue Point emerged from the pack to draw upsides at the furlong-pole.
Favourite backers might have been forgiven for thinking they were going to collect at that point, but The Last Lion had other ideas and pulled away again to score by three-quarters of a length, with the consistent Mehmas two and a quarter lengths further back in third.
Johnston told Channel 4 Racing: "I keep saying you shouldn't pigeonhole horses when it comes to ground - here he is winning a Group One on his tenth start of the year on fast ground.
"It's fantastic for Joe. He doesn't usually get the opportunity to ride in the Group Ones but hopefully he will get more chances to do so before he retires.
"Loyalty has been the number one thing. Many, many times he has been jocked off and had to play second fiddle to a chain of jockeys, but he never complains, turns up every day and gives his all.
"He's nearly always in the top 10 every year and as I've always said, if you follow Joe you won't go far wrong."
One of the most modest men in the weighing room, Fanning added: "I've ridden a lot of Group Twos and Threes, but never a Group One so it's nice to finally nail that one. It's nice to do it, and on one of Mark's as well - it's great.
"The owner said if he was in the first five he'd have run well. We always thought he was better on soft ground, it's quick today but he's done it well."
Blue Point's trainer Charlie Appleby said: "He travelled into the race nicely and he had a nice horse in front to aim at but full credit to the winner and he couldn't get past him, so no excuses.
"If Mehmas hadn't have been third beaten two and a quarter lengths I might have questioned the form but he's beaten him so that's better. The Commonwealth Cup at Ascot is the most logical step at the moment."
Harry Herbert, racing manager to Al Shaqab Racing, owners of the Richard Hannon-trained Mehmas, confirmed that the colt had now been retired, saying: "The show is over and he's been a cracking horse.
"He's been tough and consistent and a great flag-bearer, especially among the two-year-olds, this year. He won the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood which was very special to us and the view from the Sheikh (Joaan) and the team in general was that he's a horse who has done what he's done.
"He's a commercial proposition and he's off to the Tally Ho Stud in Ireland where Kodiac stands. This horse has all of the attributes to be very successful as a stallion and he has great confirmation and it's a career that I'm sure he'll enjoy enormously."
Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (Group 1)
£180,000 added, 2yo only, 6f, Class 1
Going: Good to Firm (Firm in places)
|Pos||Dr||D||Horse SP||Jockey Weight||Trainer||Age|
|1st||(2)||The Last Lion (IRE) 25/1||J Fanning
|2nd||(5)||¾||Blue Point (IRE) 11/10f||W Buick
|3rd||(6)||2¼||Mehmas (IRE) 6/1||L Dettori
|4th||(10)||½||Intelligence Cross (USA) 10/1||J A Heffernan
|A P O'Brien||2|
|5th||(4)||½||Koropick (IRE) 66/1||Jack Mitchell
|6th||(7)||hd||Mokarris (USA) 7/1||P Hanagan
|7th||(1)||1¼||Medicine Jack 33/1||C T Keane
|G M Lyons||2|
|8th||(8)||nk||Peace Envoy (FR) 9/1||R L Moore
|A P O'Brien||2|
|9th||(9)||hd||Mubtasim (IRE) 10/1||P Cosgrave
|W J Haggas||2|
|10th||(3)||4||Silver Line (IRE) 16/1||D Tudhope
|S bin Suroor||2|