Lad ready to show he has Middle class values

Newmarket Cambridgeshire Meeting: Progressive two-year-old colt can enhance his 2001 Classic claims in Group One test

When a race is as venerable as the Middle Park Stakes, which was first run in 1866 and was for many years the most important two-year-old race of the season, it should be forgiven the occasional run of less than illustrious winners. For most of the last decade, in fact ever since Rodrigo De Triano, the subsequent 2,000 Guineas winner, triumphed in 1991, the Middle Park has produced colts who, like one-hit wonders in the pop charts, have disappeared back into obscurity at an indecent speed. First Trump, Fard and Hayil are now jostling for room in the same Where-Are-They-Now? file as Right Said Fred and Billy Ray Cyrus.

When a race is as venerable as the Middle Park Stakes, which was first run in 1866 and was for many years the most important two-year-old race of the season, it should be forgiven the occasional run of less than illustrious winners. For most of the last decade, in fact ever since Rodrigo De Triano, the subsequent 2,000 Guineas winner, triumphed in 1991, the Middle Park has produced colts who, like one-hit wonders in the pop charts, have disappeared back into obscurity at an indecent speed. First Trump, Fard and Hayil are now jostling for room in the same Where-Are-They-Now? file as Right Said Fred and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Yet quality is permanent, and this afternoon's renewal of the Middle Park promises to be the strongest for 10 years. This year's field includes two runners - Minardi and Bad As I Wanna Be - with a Group One to their credit already. Two more, Endless Summer (Richmond Stakes) and Bannister (Gimcrack Stakes), have won a Group Two, while Pomfret Boy was just a short-head away from victory in the Mill Reef Stakes, and his owner has paid £12,000 to supplement him into the race.

From a punter's point of view, the Middle Park will be 70 seconds of immensely informative racing. In January and February, when Flat-racing die-hards try to sort out the 2001 Classics, this race will probably be one of the first to consider. But that does not make the contest itself an appealing one for backers in the betting shops this morning. How can you judge the merit of Minardi's five-length romp in the Independent Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes at Leopardstown against Bad As I Wanna Be's six-length margin in the Prix Morny at Deauville? Or take into account the improvement or shifts in form that could appear on today's ground at Newmarket as opposed to the mud in France last month?

If any colt today has something to prove it is Bad As I Wanna Be, for all that he won the Morny by six lengths. On paper it was an extraordinary performance, but before Brian Meehan's colt had been hosed down, the cynics were pointing out that he raced alone up the rail, while his rivals toiled up the middle on what seemed to be even more desperate ground. Endless Summer was the runner-up that day, and if nothing else, this race should prove whether Bad As I Wanna Be was flattered at Deauville. His subsequent last of four to Tobougg in the Prix de la Salamandre suggests he was.

As far as immediate betting goes, it may be that Minardi's victory at Leopardstown, which looks even better now that Superstar Leo has franked the form in the Flying Childers at Doncaster, will prove to be the best on offer. But his odds will be way too short to offer any sort of value, and a decent each-way alternative is Pomfret Boy (3.10), who was unlucky in the Mill Reef, when he ran a little freely early on.

The supporting card at Newmarket today is also strong, but with the ground easing, the immense fields of autumn are starting to arrive, and there are plenty of names and possibilities to sift through. Muja Farewell (2.05) may be worth chancing in the nursery, having been drawn a little too wide last time out to use the front-running tactics which had proved successful previously. Swallow Flight, meanwhile, is the clear form pick in the Joel Stakes, but looked as if a long season, which started on the very first day of the turf at Doncaster in March, was starting to tell when he could finish only fourth to Distant Music last time.

EL GRAN PAPA (nap 2.35), by contrast, is still progressing and should have the measure of Swallow Flight today, while Ivory's Joy (next best 3.40), another who has done nothing but improve this year having started the campaign on a rating of just 82 (she is now 30lb higher) can step up once again in the Rous Stakes.

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