All eyes at Newmarket on Saturday are set to be on the unbeaten trio of Earthlight, Siskin and Mums Tipple in what promises to be an intriguing Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes.
The Group One contest is being billed as the strongest two-year-old race of the season so far – and it is not difficult to see why, with Pattern-race winners Threat, Lope Y Fernandez and Golden Horde adding further strength in depth.
On ratings the standard is set by Earthlight, who will bid to provide Andre Fabre with a third Middle Park success following the previous triumphs of Lycius (1990) and Zieten (1992) over two decades ago.
The son of Shamardal has won four straight races, most recently claiming Group One glory in the Prix Morny.
Fabre had initially eyed next month’s Dewhurst as an appropriate end-of-season target, but he has instead made the journey across the Channel a couple of weeks earlier to allow Godolphin to split Earthlight and their other star juvenile, Pinatubo.
Fabre said: “Hopefully the draw is OK (stall four) and I think the ground should be fine for him after the bit of rain they’ve had in Newmarket. That is not a concern.
“There are some other very good horses in the race. Our horse is in good condition and everything is fine, so we hope for the best.
“The likes of Siskin and Mums Tipple look like they may have a little more speed than him as he is the type of colt who might be able to stay a bit further next year.”
Mums Tipple is two from two for Richard Hannon – making a winning debut in what has turned out to be a red-hot maiden at Ascot before producing one of the most visually impressive displays of the season so far with an 11-length romp in a valuable sales at York.
However, the Herridge handler has warned punters not to dismiss the chances of his apparent second string Threat, who is a double-figure price despite winning the Gimcrack at York and the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster on his last two starts.
Hannon said: “Both Threat and Mums Tipple are going to run and I think that is the right decision as they both deserve their chance. It’s fabulous – it’s going to be one of the best Middle Parks we have seen for years. It will be a very intriguing race.
“Mums Tipple is the horse with the ‘wow’ factor, but Threat is the horse that has been there and done it at Group-race level with a penalty and he shouldn’t have a problem coming back in trip. It is nice to have two good bullets to fire.
“There is the French horse to worry about and Siskin and all sorts of others. It’s lovely to be part of it, but you want to win it and I’m very hopeful that one of them will go there and win.”
Siskin provided his trainer Ger Lyons with a first Group One success in Ireland when claiming his fourth straight victory in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last month.
Lyons said: “I think that Siskin is as well as we have ever had him – we couldn’t be happier with him. He’s a very straightforward horse and thus far everything has gone to plan.
“I am relishing being involved in such a hugely strong renewal of the Middle Park Stakes – it’s absolutely what we do the job for and it’s fantastic to have a horse of Siskin’s calibre to make it possible.
“I will be very surprised if either the course at Newmarket or travelling outside Ireland for the first time bother him – my only concern is the opposition.
“What Mums Tipple achieved at York was seriously jaw-dropping and I have huge respect for Earthlight, the other Group One winner in the field, who is in the hands of one of the best trainers on planet Earth.
“I wish they weren’t turning up, but they are, and all I can say is ‘may the best horse win’.”
Aidan O’Brien secured a record sixth victory in the Middle Park 12 months ago with Ten Sovereigns and this year fires a three-pronged assault, with Monarch Of Egypt – runner-up to Siskin on his last two starts – joined by Lope Y Fernandez and King Neptune.
Clive Cox is represented by Richmond Stakes hero Golden Horde, who third to Earthlight in France on his latest appearance.
“I’m very pleased with him – he’s in great form. It’s a very hot renewal, obviously,” said Cox.
“He ran on quicker ground when he won the Richmond and coped with some ease in the Morny, but I think hopefully this will be nice ground.
“He’s had a healthy time between races. He has a bit of size and scope about him and I hope that he has continued to progress.”
Richard Fahey’s outsider Summer Sands completes the nine-strong field.