Middle Earth makes most of Aston Park opportunity

Middle Earth came with a sustained late charge to take the Sky Sports Racing Aston Park Stakes at Newbury.

John and Thady Gosden’s well-regarded colt broke steadily from the stalls and was ridden patiently by Oisin Murphy, settling into a space on the far rail having started at 100-30.

The lead changed hands a few times in the home straight, although the King and Queen’s even-money favourite Desert Hero never looked a threat, as King Of Conquest seemed poised to strike.

Charlie Appleby’s five-year-old had broken clear of the field in the Group Three contest, but it was Middle Earth who was gaining momentum on the inside and he surged home to score with just a nose between him and the Godolphin-trained runner-up.

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“That was good, the jockey saved every inch and he needed every inch,” said John Gosden.

“He won well in the Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot (in October) and he’s a grand horse.

“The horse will come on for that, because it wasn’t strongly run for a horse coming from last. He’s like his father (Roaring Lion), he likes good ground, good to firm and firm. He’s not a lover of soft ground.

“He was slow out the gates, he usually is, but he was slower than ever and there was no pace until old Cemhaan tried to put a bit of pace in it.

“He did well to win off that pace, but Oisin was clever sneaking up the rail and when you are winning by a nose you need to sneak up the rail.”

Middle Earth with Oisin Murphy
Middle Earth with Oisin Murphy (Steven Paston/PA)

Middle Earth – whose only below-par effort last year was in the St Leger – now appears set to march on towards Royal Ascot for an outing in the Hardwicke Stakes, but with Australian handler Ciaron Maher holding an interest, a trip to Australia is inevitable in the autumn.

“He’s entered in the Hardwicke and we will have to check. Ciaron Maher owns the other half in Australia so we will chat with them and see what the game plan will be, but that seems the place he is likely to go,” continued Gosden.

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“The plan is to go down to Australia for the Melbourne Cup. We’ll probably run him a couple or more times here, we’ll not overrace him and then go down there.

“He hated the ground in the St Leger last year, it was too loose and he does not like it. So if they get one of those downpours in Melbourne we may as well all stay in the hotel.”

Desert Hero was fifth eventually, with rider Tom Marquand saying of his run: “He ended up sitting a bit closer than he normally does off the slower pace, but whether that race at Sandown (last month) took a bit out of him, I’m not sure.

“He is certainly better suited when there is a stronger gallop on and it was not the worst run ever, but it was certainly not up to some of his best form.”

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