Middle Park Stakes hero The Last Lion set to return five years after retirement
Group 1 winner The Last Lion is set to make a remarkable return to the track with his first appearance for more than five years at Lingfield on Saturday following an unsuccessful spell at stud.
Trained by Mark Johnston, The Last Lion was a busy two-year-old and provided jockey Joe Fanning with his first winner at the highest level in the 2016 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.
He was subsequently retired to stud, but a stallion career has not worked out and he is back with Johnston, who has entered him in Lingfield's Listed Betway Golden Rose Stakes (3.05).
Fanning will ride the The Last Lion for the first time in 1,876 days and said: "He was my first Group 1 winner and he's been good. I've done a few gallops on him and he seems fine at home. He looks good and has put a bit of weight on.
"He's done enough work to have a run, so we'll see how it goes. It's hard to know if he's of that standard still, but his work at home is good enough, he's galloped with horses who have won and he's been going easy with them.
"He was always a nice-natured horse and is the same, but has filled out a bit. I've never been involved in one who has come back to race, but he looks well and it's worth a go, while he used to go on any surface."
'It's 50-50 if he gets there'
Lingfield's other Listed race, the Betway Churchill Stakes (3.40), will see a star return in Coronation Cup hero Pyledriver, who has been absent since that triumph in June.
He could be joined by Lambourn counterpart Salouen, who memorably came close to beating Cracksman in that Epsom Group 1 in 2018.
He has been off since the following year's Irish St Leger and trainer Sylvester Kirk said: "He had a bad injury, but it's been handling well and he's been working well. It's 50-50 if he gets there this weekend."
The two Listed races at Lingfield will be part of an six-race show on ITV, which will also broadcast four races from Cheltenham including the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
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