Racing: Arkadian can claim the Middle ground

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The Independent Online
Today's big race at Newmarket, the Middle Park Stakes, is a six furlong test for two-year-old colts, which has a reputation for acting as an indicator to the following year's 2,000 Guineas and Derby, writes Sue Montgomery.

Where William Blenkiron led, others now follow. The fuss made about sponsorship in racing over the past couple of decades might give the impression that commercially driven provision of prize-money was a modern phenomenon. But not so. The Middle Park Stakes, to be contested this afternoon at Newmarket for the 122nd time, was instigated by the aforementioned Blenkiron, a forward-thinking breeder who gave the then huge sum of pounds 1,000 towards the first three runnings of the six-furlong race in order to publicise the wares from his Middle Park Stud.

Blenkiron, a Yorkshireman, had a flourishing haberdashery business in London and his astuteness was not limited to buttons and bows. His race swiftly became the most important two-year-old test of the year, with its winner generally made winter favourite for the Classics.

But the eventual development of numerous other valuable end-of-season targets for juvenile colts has meant such aspirations have, like Middle Park Stud itself (it now lies underneath the south-east London suburb of Eltham), disappeared.

The last Middle Park Stakes winner to go on to Epsom glory was Bahram in 1933. And in post-war years only six 2,000 Guineas winners have emerged from the roll of honour, with decreasing frequency: Nearula (1952), Our Babu (1954), Right Tack (1968), Brigadier Gerard (1970), Known Fact (1979) and Rodrigo de Triano (1991). And it is 15 years since a Middle park winner - Diesis - topped the two-year-old colts' classifications.

But if such a historic contest is no longer the prime target for the best potential milers or middle-distance horses, it can pinpoint high- class young sprinters, like Royal Applause, winner two years ago.

This afternoon's contest, though, does not seem, on paper at least, to be a vintage renewal. If, as seems likely, the Gimcrack Stakes winner Carrowkeel defects this morning because of the fast ground. the only previous pattern winner in the field will be Arkadian Hero, who scraped home in the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury 12 days ago.

Arkadian Hero (3.10) was backed as if defeat was out of the question then but gave punters a fright as he became bogged down in the tacky ground. Today's going will suit his fluent action far better and the free-running son of Trempolino and Frankie Dettori should be capable of ensuring another Group 1 trophy ends up on Michael Tabor's sideboard. Luca Cumani's string are in rude health at present, which is more than can be said for their trainer, who was confined to bed with a virus yesterday.

If there is to be a surprise it may come from Captain Tim, stablemate of Tuesday's Cheveley Park winner Embassy and named for his owner, Wafic Said's racing manager, Tim Bulwer-Long. This Fairy King colt, with only a second place in a maiden under his girth, is being thrown in at the deep end, but he has reportedly progressed nicely since following home Deterrent - a winner yesterday - at Nottingham two weeks ago.

Another of Said's playfully-named colts, Frankie Ferrari (after guess who), is expected to step up on his debut in the seven-furlong maiden, which also marks the first appearance of Regal Patriarch, young half-brother to St Leger hero, but unlikely Arc runner, Silver Patriarch. But Wandering Wolf (4.15), the mount of Olivier Peslier, may be worth a chance at the third time of asking.

In view of the original sponsorship of the Middle Park Stakes, Europe's premier equine auction house, Tattersalls, may be slightly peeved that none of the participants in today's running is a graduate of its flagship yearling dispersal, the Houghton Sale, which finishes this evening.

The Thoroughbred Corporation, the high-rolling American-based group of owners who currently back the Middle Park, laid out another 260,000 guineas yesterday afternoon for a son of Zafonic, but that may be small beer against some of the profligacy expected in the Tattersalls arena tonight, when among the blue-blooded glossy darlings to be offered are a brother to Entrepreneur and a half-sister to Pilsudski.

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