Gimcrack winner Sands Of Mali equipped to handle any surface
Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes | Group 1 | 6f | ITV/RUK
Sands Of Mali bids to uphold the record of Gimcrack winners in the Middle Park when he takes on Group 1 winners Unfortunately and Sioux Nation.
Amadeus Wolf and Astaire completed the York-Newmarket double, and Blue Point failed by under a length to add to the sequence 12 months ago.
With Yorkshire yards holding their own in the race, Richard Fahey has no qualms about taking the next step up in class with a colt who made all to win the York Group 2.
He has long rated Sands Of Mali good enough for the grade even if he is still scratching his head at his debut defeat in July.
"We've been very pleased with him," said Fahey. "Since York, everything's gone according to plan. I'd entered him in the Middle Park before York so was thinking along these lines then.
"I'm still trying to get my head around the fact he was beaten first time out. I wouldn't swap him here. I'd be comfortable running him on quick and slow ground; he's just a good horse."
Unfortunately made his debut at the Craven meeting in April and won next time at Hamilton, but it is for efforts in France he has earned top billing within Karl Burke's impressive 2017 juvenile team.
He beat Frozen Angel and Heartache to win the Prix Robert Papin and followed up with victory over stablemate Havana Grey and Albany Stakes winner Different League in the Prix Morny.
If any trainer has a handle on what will be required it is Burke, who said: "There are three or four within a length of each other. It's going to come down to which handles the ground, which has progressed or which has gone backwards over the last month. It's one of the most competitive Middle Parks I've seen for a while.
"Our fellow is in great form, I'm very happy with his condition. He's a couple of kilos heavier than when he went to the Morny. He looks as though he's grown and matured."
He added: "It's been an amazing season. I'm waiting for us to hit a brick wall but at the moment the horses are holding their form and look fantastic. We have to go there very hopeful. I'm not over-confident but am very hopeful he'll run a huge race."
Middle Park record in sight
Aidan O'Brien has saddled 11 runners in the last ten Middle Parks and Crusade (2011) was the only colt to win during that period. However, with three wins in 2000, 2001 and 2004 he needs only one more victory to become the race's most successful trainer.
Sioux Nation had a busy spring before winning the Norfolk at Royal Ascot, and then beat Beckford to claim the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes. He is one of four Ballydoyle runners, and they also include U S Navy Flag, who won the Group 3 Round Tower Stakes after finishing fourth in the Phoenix.
O'Brien said: "Sioux Nation has done well, winning the Norfolk and Phoenix. He's progressed with every run and we're happy with him.
"U S Navy Flag is a hardy colt who's come on with each run. He won a Group 3 over the trip by six lengths last time and is in good form."
He added: "Declarationofpeace has plenty of speed and the better the ground the more it will suit him. Fleet Review, too, is a good-ground horse. We're not sure but the slow ground might have accounted for his disappointing run in the Acomb last time."
What they say
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Beckford
He didn't seem to stay seven furlongs on testing ground in the National Stakes last time. He came out of the race well and is in good form. The Middle Park has been the plan since. Dropping back to six furlongs will suit and so will the better ground.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to Mark Johnston, trainer of Cardsharp
If there's further rain the ground would be a worry. He won the July Stakes and has been placed in the Richmond and Gimcrack. He's shown consistent and solid form in all the races that would be key form lines for the Middle Park. We won this race last year with the most exposed horse in the field. It'll take a lot of winning but I hope he'll put up a good performance anyway.
Andrew Balding, trainer of Danzan
He’s a decent horse. The form of his Doncaster run looks very strong and he'll be suited by the half-furlong drop back in trip. He has plenty of speed.
Tom Dascombe, trainer of Frozen Angel
He ran a bit flat at York. He has form with Havana Grey and Unfortunately, and ran well in Ireland, but after the Gimcrack we've given him a month off. If he returns to some form he has a reasonable chance of finishing third or fourth. He won't mind soft ground at all.
Richard Spencer, trainer of Rajasinghe
He had to miss the Prix Morny owing to a dirty scope but he's back to where we want him, fresh and well. He’s more lightly-raced than most of his rivals, which I think is in his favour. He's only ever raced on quick ground before so we'll just have to see how he copes with the conditions.
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