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Burrows puts Minzaal to test in ‘red-hot’ Middle Park

Owen Burrows is eager to discover just how good Minzaal is when he runs in a high-class renewal of the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.

A hugely impressive winner of the Gimcrack at York last time out, the Mehmas colt has been a bit of a buzz horse since.

Following his win on the Knavesmire, Burrows stated he felt Minzaal was all about speed and that – rather than try to stretch him into a Guineas horse – the Commonwealth Cup would be his likely target.

“It looks a red-hot race, the best of the crop really, and it was always going to be,” Burrows said of Saturday’s Group One.

Trainer Owen Burrows has enjoyed a good season
Trainer Owen Burrows has enjoyed a good season (Simon Cooper/PA)

“Fingers crossed, we are going there with every chance.

“We knew straight after York this would be his race – I wasn’t tempted by anything else, and timing-wise it has been perfect.

“Having won his Group Two at York, this was the next obvious place to come.

“There was plenty of rain before racing on Thursday, and the jocks are saying it is riding a bit dead. I’d imagine it will be very similar ground to what it was in the Gimcrack, just on the soft side of good – no excuses for anybody, I shouldn’t think.

“The nerves are not too bad, and I’m looking forward to it. We’ll learn a bit more about him and we’ll see how good he is.”

Lucky Vega is the only Group One winner in the field
Lucky Vega is the only Group One winner in the field (PA Wire)
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Unusually, the Irish challenge is not led by Aidan O’Brien – whose Lipizzaner will be one of the outsiders – and Jessica Harrington instead fulfils that role.

Her Lucky Vega is the only Group One winner in the field, having scorched clear in the Phoenix Stakes, but it all then went wrong last time in the National Stakes when he met all sorts of trouble in running.

Harrington said: “It would be fair to say his last race didn’t go to plan, but we don’t need to say any more about that.

“Prior to that, he was very impressive in the Phoenix Stakes – and on that form he should have a good chance.

“I wouldn’t imagine we’ll be using the ground as an excuse – he’s pretty versatile, and it shouldn’t be bottomless.

“We haven’t done much with him since the National, just kept him ticking over, (and) we’re looking for a big run.”

Another major contender is Clive Cox’s Supremacy, hugely impressive when coming home four lengths clear in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood.

“He was an exciting winner of the Richmond, and he’s had a healthy break in between there and here,” said Cox.

“He’s shown us plenty of class, but has physically progressed since Goodwood and we’re very much looking forward to seeing him perform here.”

Martyn Meade’s Method is defending the only unbeaten record in the race and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori – with Oisin Murphy claimed by Qatar Racing to ride The Lir Jet – but the trainer is watching the skies.

Meade said: “Everything that we can control I’ve been delighted with, but the one thing we can’t – the weather – may scupper us.

“I really want to run him, because there’s nothing else for him – he’s not in the Dewhurst, and I’d want to keep him over six furlongs anyway – but I wouldn’t want him pulled about on heavy ground.

“I’ve been pleased watching most of the others have hard races while we were always coming straight here – so he’s had a lovely break, been freshened up and hopefully we get to run him.

“Newmarket can dry quickly, and it is very windy – I just hope they don’t have any more of those downpours.

“He’s got lots of speed, so I wouldn’t want to run him if it went bottomless. This has always been the plan, and earlier in the week I thought the ground would be perfect for him. This is the one we’ve been aiming at, but I just don’t want to risk him on extreme ground.”

The Lir Jet was second to Lucky Vega in the Phoenix Stakes, but had earlier beaten Wes Ward’s speedster Golden Pal at Royal Ascot.

“It’s a cracking race and a very deep renewal of the race, I think,” said jockey Murphy.

The Lir Jet (left) edged out Golden Pal at Royal Ascot
The Lir Jet (left) edged out Golden Pal at Royal Ascot (Julian Finney/PA)

“I’ve obviously got off Method, and Frankie has jumped on in my place. He’s a very exciting horse who won his Listed race well.”I thought Minzaal was a very impressive winner of the Gimcrack, and I was impressed with Supremacy at Goodwood.

“The Lir Jet has to step up a bit on ratings, but he’s a big, scopey horse who I hope is still improving.

“I’m open-minded regarding the trip, and any dig in the ground won’t bother him.”

Foley keen on Lucky Vega chance in National Stakes

Shane Foley expects the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes to be one of the races of the weekend as he prepares to ride Lucky Vega against Battleground and Master Of The Seas at the Curragh.

Lucky Vega arrives on the back of arguably the most impressive performance by a juvenile this season in the Phoenix Stakes, when Jessica Harrington’s youngster quickened away to win by three and a half lengths.

Sunday’s assignment represents a different task – with Aidan O’Brien’s Chesham winner Battleground and the Charlie Appleby-trained Superlative Stakes scorer Master Of The Seas in opposition – but Foley is feeling confident.

“From day one he’s always been a nice horse,” said Foley, speaking on an Irish Champions Weekend preview.

“He had a little hold-up after his maiden win, which meant it was a bit of a rush getting to the Railway Stakes. He got beat in that, but improved no end for it and showed what he was capable of in the Phoenix.

“He’s laid-back, so should have no problem going up to seven furlongs. Looking at it, it looks one of the races of the weekend – with Battleground and Master Of The Seas.”

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Battleground followed up his Ascot win in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, and now gets to race closer to home.

“He’s a big, powerful horse and has done very well physically since Goodwood – and we’re looking forward to running him,” said O’Brien.

“He’s handled good ground and slowish ground.”

Appleby has won the last two editions of the National Stakes with the ill-fated Quorto and last year’s champion juvenile Pinatubo – so is bidding for a hat-trick.

Master Of The Seas looks another top-class colt in the making for Charlie Appleby
Master Of The Seas looks another top-class colt in the making for Charlie Appleby (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He worked nicely during the week, and we’re very pleased with him,” said the Godolphin trainer.

“It’s going to be a good race. I saw Battleground at Ascot and I was at Goodwood when he won. I respect Jessica Harrington’s horse as well – he won the Phoenix well.

“Thankfully it’s a race we’ve had a bit of luck in in recent years, and it would be nice to continue it.”

Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon bolted up on his debut, but lacks in experience compared to the others.

“Obviously it’s a big step up in class from a maiden straight into a Group One, but we didn’t have many other options,” said the Owning Hill trainer.

“He’s in at the deep end, but couldn’t have won his debut any easier.”

Ken Condon with Law Of Indices

Ken Condon, with Laws Of Indices (INPHO/PA)Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices had Lucky Vega behind him when winning the Railway but was then only fourth in the Phoenix.

“He’s not ground dependent, and he’s a very straightforward horse,” said Condon.

“Physically, he’s doing very well.

“I’m very happy with where he’s at – he looks a picture, and I think he’ll give a good showing.”

Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney is another who has Group race-winning form to his name – over course and distance in the Futurity Stakes.