The Last Lion (Choisir), winner of Saturday’s Gr1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes, has joined a long and impressive list of winners of this Newmarket showpiece feature, writes Sarah Whitelaw.
First run in 1866, the Middle Park Stakes was originally named the Middle Park Plate and, since 1987, has been a race restricted solely to colts.
With a long list of outstanding winners early on, the Middle Park Stakes was quickly established as one of Britain’s major two-year-old contests and a good source of future classic winners.
The 1875 race was won by Petrarch (Lord Clifden) –who not only won the following year’s 2000 Guineas, but also landed the top stamina tests, St Leger and Gold Cup (a feat hard to imagine today’s speedily bred Middle Park winners achieving!).
Other early winners of the Middle Park to go on and enjoy classic success were Prince Charlie (2000 Guineas), Melton (Epsom Derby), Donovan (Epsom Derby, St Leger),
Orme, who won the race in 1891, was an outstanding racehorse whose 14 wins (from 18 outings) also included back to back runnings of the Eclipse Stakes.
The son of Triple Crown winner Ormonde also proved outstanding at stud and topped the British Sires List in 1899. Orme’s top runners included Triple Crown winner Flying Fox and Derby hero Orby – with both horses going on to form their own dynasties at stud.
Following Orme’s win, the Middle Park was won the next year by subsequent Triple Crown winner Isinglass, who suffered just one defeat on the track.
Remarkably, just four years after Isinglass landed the Middle Park, another future Triple Crown hero prevailed, when Galtee More beat Velasquez, who was giving the future champion 3lbs.
While the Middle Park is today restricted to entire males, the race has been won previously by some outstanding subsequent broodmares.
Signorina (St Simon), who won the race in 1899, produced Epsom Derby heroine Signorinetta, while 1942 winner Ribbon (Fairway) is ancestress of Arc de Triomphe hero Hurricane Run (Montjeu).
One of the greatest racemares of all time, Pretty Polly (Gallinule), won the Gr1 Middle Park in 1903.
She would go on to land 22 of 24 outings, with her wins including the 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger and became ancestress of numerous superstars including Brigadier Gerard (Queen’s Hussar), Cape Cross (Green Desert), Fantastic Light (Rahy), Nearctic (Nearco) and Great Nephew (Honeyway).
Pretty Polly is also the fourth dam of Sister Sublime –ancestress of champions Mazarin (Preamble II), National Emblem (National Assembly) and Roland’s Song (Roland Gardens).
Another Middle Park winner to have made a mark in South Africa is 1958 hero Masham (King Of The Tudors) –whose local runners included the top class performers Amaze, Magic Mirror, and High Frequency and his offspring won what is now known as the Gold Medallion on three occasions.
Between the years 1919 and 1940, the Middle Park went to at least four hugely influential or champion sires in Tetratema, Pharamond, Fair Copy and Djebel respectively, while other successful stallions to have scored in the race during this period include Bahram, whose progeny included 2000 Guineas hero Big Game.
Father and son Middle Park winners, Sharpen Up and Diesis, both enjoyed plenty of success at stud, with Sharpen Up (also broodmare sire of top class sires Cadeaux Genereux and Dashing Blade) leaving behind a host of top class performers including champions Kris, Pebbles, and Sharpo, while his son Diesis (also an outstanding broodmare sire) siring three Epsom Oaks winners as well as champion and successful sire Halling.
In more recent years, the Middle Park has uncovered two of the UK’s most commercial sires in Dark Angel (Acclamation) and Oasis Dream (Green Desert).
Something of a rags to riches story, Dark Angel (who never raced at three) retired to stud for a fee of €7 000 –and currently stands for a fee of €60,000. The Tally-Ho Stud inmate has been represented by more than 30 black type winners with his tally including Gr1 July Cup hero Lethal Force and dual Nunthorpe Stakes heroine Mecca’s Angel. In 2016 alone, Dark Angel has been represented by 15 black type winners.
In contrast, Oasis Dream was a commercial success since he retired to stud.
The former champion sprinter has more than lived up to his star billing, with his 100 odd stakes winners including 15 Gr1 winners –a tally which includes Middle Park winner Charming Thought. Oasis Dream is also fast becoming a top class sire of sires, with his sons at stud including hot young stallions Power, Querari (sire of last season’s Gr1 Thekwini Stakes winner Querari Falcon) and Showcasing- the latter being responsible for 2016 dual Gr1 winner Quiet Reflection. Oasis Dream’s champion sprinter son Muhaarar is currently regarded as one of Britain’s most exciting young hopes and covered an exceptional book of mares (including SA champ Majmu) in his first year at stud this season.
Another Middle Park Stakes winner in the news is Johannesburg – who himself was undefeated in seven starts at two.
Broodmare sire of Gr1 winners Crusade, Jet Setting and Seventh Heaven, Johannesburg (now in Japan) left behind a truly outstanding sire son in the form of the tragically deceased Scat Daddy. The latter, who won the Gr1 Florida Derby, has been represented by no fewer than seven Gr1 winners in 2016 –highlighted by outstanding juveniles Caravaggio and Lady Aurelia.
Johannesburg is also sire of French Gr1 winner Sageburg –whose daughter Spain Burg won Friday’s Gr2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket.
KZN has a really exciting sire prospect on their hands in the form of 2011 Middle Park Stakes winner Crusade.
A half brother to 2016’s dual Oaks winner and potential Arc runner Seventh Heaven and from the powerful Gone West male line, Crusade looks to have every chance to further enhance the success at stud that past Middle Park winners have enjoyed.