Middle Park Stakes

The Middle Park Stakes is a Group 1 race for two-year-old colts at Newmarket. It is currently held at the Cambridgeshire meeting and can influence the betting on the following season’s 2000 Guineas. In recent years the winners have often gone on to become leading sprinters including Dream Ahead (2010), U S Navy Flag (2017) and Ten Sovereigns (2018), all subsequent winners of the July Cup.

The Race

The Middle Park Stakes is over six furlongs and takes place in September, having recently been moved from Future Champions’ Day two weeks’ later. This was primarily to avoid a clash with the seven-furlong Dewhurst Stakes. The race is usually won by more of a sprinting type than a horse guaranteed to stay a mile.

Famous Middle Park Stakes Winners & History

The race was first run as the Middle Park Plate in 1866 with victory going to The Rake. It was not restricted to colts until 1987, although it had produced a future 2000 Guineas winner as early as 1871 with Prince Charlie. 1875 winner Petrarch won the 2000 Guineas and the St Leger as a three-year-old.

The Classic winners continued to flow with 1883 winning filly Busybody taking the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks, ridden by Fred Archer. The legendary jockey also won the Middle Park in 1884 on Felton, subsequent winner of the Derby and St Leger. Their achievements were surpassed by 1892 winner Isinglass, the sixth horse to complete the English Triple Crown of 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger.

Other famous winners of the Middle Park include Sun Chariot (1941), Dante (1944), Abernant (1948), and Our Babu (1954). This remarkable record continued to 1970 when the great Brigadier Gerard won. He would go on to win 17 of his 18 races over a glittering career, ranging from six furlongs to a mile and a half.

The last horse to win the Middle Park Stakes and the 2000 Guineas was Rodrigo de Triano in 1991-1992. He was owned by Robert Sangster and ridden by Willie Carson in the Middle Park but Lester Piggott took over the reins in the 2000 Guineas.

There has been a clear shift towards sprinting talent in more recent years. Several winners have returned to Newmarket to win the Group 1 July Cup including Oasis Dream (2002) and Dream Ahead (2010). Aidan O’Brien attempted the 2000 Guineas route with both U S Navy Flag (2017) and Ten Sovereigns (2018) before successfully reverting to sprinting.

Key Middle Park Stakes Trials

One race stands out as the best trial for the Middle Park and that is the Prix Morny at Deauville. No less than five colts have won that race before following up at Newmarket in the last twelve seasons; Dream Ahead (2010), Restless Abandon (2012), Shalaa (2015), Earthlight (2019) and Perfect Power (2021). Unfortunately (2017) was the only Prix Morny winner to be defeated in the Middle Park during the 12-year period.

Middle Park Stakes Betting Trends

Six of the last twelve Middle Park favourites have won and four second favourites. Shalaa (2015) started odds-on at 1-2 and Ten Sovereigns (2018) returned at 8-13. Other well-backed favourites to oblige were Dream Ahead (2010), Reckless Abandon (2012 Joint-favourite), Earthlight (2019) and Perfect Power (2021).

There have been several shock results in the Middle Park in recent years. Crusade (2011) and The Last Lion (2016) were both 25-1 outsiders while Charming Thought (2014) started at 22-1. Racing fans of a certain vintage will also recall Steve Cauthen winning on 50-1 outsider Creag-An-Sgor in 1983. U S Navy Flag (2017) was not the O’Brien stable number one when winning at 10-1 and Astaire (2013) was an 8-1 chance,

Middle Park Stakes Stats

Ten of the last twelve winners had been successful on their previous outing. All but two of them had raced within the last 7 weeks with at least two previous runs over six furlongs. All twelve had at least one six furlong victory to their credit before winning here. Despite the number of shock results, 10 of the last 12 winners had won at least once at Group 1 to 3 level. A rating of 105 or higher is usually required to win the Middle Park Stakes. Shalaa (120) was the highest rated colt going into the race in recent seasons.

Top Trainers and Jockeys

Aidan O’Brien is now the most successful trainer in the history of the race with six winners. He first struck with Minardi (2000) and followed up with Johannesburg (2001) and Ad Valorem (2004). Crusade (2011), U S Navy Flag (2017) and Ten Sovereigns (2018) were his other winners.

The record for leading jockey in the race is currently shared by Danny Maher, Sir Gordon Richards and Lester Piggott who each have six victories. Frankie Dettori has ridden the winner on four occasions; Bahamian Bounty (1996), Lujain (1998), Dutch Art (2006) and Shalaa (2015). One surprising stat, given the success of Aidan O’Brien, is that Ryan Moore is yet to win the Middle Park after eleven rides in the race.

Betting on the Middle Park Stakes

The Middle Park Stakes is not a big ante-post betting race and does not really take shape until after the Prix Morny. Recent trends suggest this is almost an automatic choice for the winner of that race. There have been plenty of upsets so don’t be afraid to go in for an each-way bet at long odds if you fancy an outsider.

U S Navy Flag (2017) went on to win the Dewhurst Stakes over seven furlongs on his next start and finished second in the Irish 2000 Guineas in 2018. Ten Sovereigns (2018) went straight to the 2000 Guineas the following season where he finished fifth. The recent trends do not support the Middle Park Stakes as a Classic trial so the form should be treated with caution in that regard.

Summary

The Middle Park Stakes sits more happily at the Cambridgeshire meeting after reverting from its brief time as part of Future Champions’ Day. History shows this race to be much more about Group 1 sprinters than Classic contenders in the modern era and it continues to be won by some classy colts.

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