Commonwealth Cup contender Minzaal will miss the first part of the season after having surgery on a leg injury.
The Gimcrack Stakes winner sustained the damage in his box and is currently recuperating at his owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stud.
Trainer Owen Burrows is optimistic Minzaal will be back in action this season – but it could be a race against time to get him ready for his Group One objective over six furlongs at Royal Ascot.
“Unfortunately Minzaal injured himself in his box before Christmas,” said the Lambourn handler.
“He’s had to have surgery and he’s back at Shadwell at the moment recuperating.
“Whether or not he’ll make Ascot will be just determined on how he progresses now. It’s a shame.
“He must have banged a hind leg and has had a couple of chips removed off his hocks.
“Obviously the Commonwealth Cup was the plan. There’s still a small chance. God willing, we’ll have him back at some stage this year.”
Minzaal was third in the Group One Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on his final start last term.
Burrows is looking forward to Hukum’s four-year-old campaign, after the colt gave him a first Royal Ascot winner when landing the King George V Handicap on just his third start last summer.
Hukum went on to prove himself in Pattern company, winning the Group Three Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury and finishing a creditable fifth in the St Leger at Doncaster on his latest outing.
“He’s back with me and looks to have done well over the winter. He’s an exciting horse for us all,” he said.
“I have plans in my head, but nothing concrete as such yet.”
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Owen Burrows will work back from next year’s Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot with exciting sprinter Minzaal.
The Lambourn handler believes the Group One prize is the most logical target for the son of Mehmas after deciding to draw stumps for this season.
Minzaal finished a respectable third on his Group One debut in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket, having previously run out an impressive winner of the Gimcrack at York.
Burrows said: “Minzaal ran well in the Middle Park and he has come out of it fine, but that is him done for the season. He will be heading back up to Shadwell shortly for the winter.
“He is still very exciting and we will look forward to taking on the winner (Supremacy) again next year.
“I don’t think we will be looking to go any further than six with him and the Commonwealth Cup will be the first aim.”
Before sending Minzaal to the Royal meeting, Burrows intends to give him a prep race, although those plans will be decided closer to the time.
He added: “We would give him a run before Ascot, as it is always hard to go Ascot in a normal year first time out. As long as he is well, we will try to find a prep race for him.
“Where we start before that, I’m not sure yet, but the Pavilion at Ascot is an obvious one then there is also the Sandy Lane. The ground will be a factor, but it’s a long way off.”
Burrows is confident Minzaal will train on over the winter, despite his sire Mehmas being retired at the the end of his juvenile campaign.
He added: “Mehmas was taken off to stud at two, but I can’t see any reason why this lad won’t train on.
“He is as chilled as you like. He is not small and I look forward to how he does over the winter.
“Hopefully he will come back a stronger horse next year. He is bang up there with the best of them.”
Stablemate Tabdeed could be given options over seven furlongs next year with Burrows deciding to call time on his season.
After landing the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury on his penultimate outing, the Havana Gold gelding failed to beat a rival home upped to Group One company for the first time in last month’s Sprint Cup at Haydock.
He said: “There is not a lot lot for him, so I think he is finished for the season.
“It has been spoken about going seven furlongs with him next season. It is not a definite, but I’m not ruling out us trying it. His run style would give him every chance of getting it as he could settle out the back and come through.”
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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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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The big four have all been declared for Saturday’s Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes as Minzaal, Supremacy, Lucky Vega and Method all stood their ground among a field of eight in the Group One.
Owen Burrows’ Minzaal arrives having won the Gimcrack in fine style at York, Clive Cox’s Supremacy was an impressive winner of the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood while Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega brings Group One form to the table.
Martyn Meade’s Method is defending the only unbeaten record, but needs to take a big step up from winning a Listed race in fine style last time out.
Aidan O’Brien should never be discounted in this race and runs Lipizzaner, with John Murphy’s Charterhouse also making the journey from Ireland.
Andrew Balding’s Royal Ascot winner Tactical and Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet, also successful at the big meeting in June, also line up.
In the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes, Karl Burke’s Dandalla, unbeaten in three, faces eight rivals.
The Albany winner has not been seen since winning the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes in early July.
Her main market rival is Ken Condon’s Miss Amulet, who will be sporting new silks since winning the Lowther in good style at York. She has been bought by Doreen Tabor, wife of Coolmore’s Michael Tabor, so Ryan Moore now takes the ride.
Aloha Star, third to Lucky Vega in the Phoenix Stakes, represents Fozzy Stack and is another to have changed hands since she last ran.
Richard Hannon’s Happy Romance will aim to add another big pot having won a couple of sales races already, while Richard Fahey’s Umm Kulthum is back out quickly having won at Ayr last week.
William Haggas’ Sacred, second in three Group Twos since winning on her debut, runs in cheekpieces with Alcohol Free, Illykato and James Ferguson’s first Group One runner Zoetic completing the field.
There was a shake up in the betting for the Juddmonte Royal Lodge after O’Brien chose not to declare ante-post favourite High Definition. He instead relies on Ontario, winner of one of his four races to date.
Mark Johnston’s Acomb winner Gear Up will aim to take his record to three from three while Cox’s Cobh, Roger Charlton’s Pleasant Man and Ralph Beckett’s New Mandate complete a field of five.
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Minzaal and Supremacy are on course for a mouthwatering clash in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.
Since finishing a promising fourth on his Ascot debut in late July, the Owen Burrows-trained Minzaal has shed his maiden tag at Salisbury and run out a thoroughly impressive winner of the Gimcrack Stakes at York.
Connections are looking forward to testing his powers at Group One level this weekend.
Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum, said on Monday morning: “That (Middle Park) is the plan for Minzaal.
“Owen has been very happy with him since York. I’m sure he has another bit of work to do later in the week, but provided that goes well, hopefully we’ll see him on Saturday.”
Clive Cox has confirmed both Supremacy and Nando Parrado for the six-furlong contest.
Supremacy was last seen dominating his rivals in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood, while Nando Parrado proved his 150-1 victory in the Coventry at Royal Ascot was no fluke by filling the runner-up spot in the Prix Morny at Deauville last month.
With ground conditions on the Rowley Mile on the quick side of good, Cox is favouring running Supremacy this weekend, with Nando Parrado potentially waiting for the seven-furlong Dewhurst Stakes next month.
Speaking on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast, Cox said: “Nando Parrado would appreciate a drop of rain. We’re very keen at some stage to step him up to seven furlongs, but we’ll be keep the option open – if the ground did ease significantly, then we’ve got that base covered.
“We’ve left him in, but he probably won’t be declared if it doesn’t rain. He’s going to stay another furlong and probably even a mile next year – he’s a very exciting prospect.
“Supremacy is a proven horse on top of the ground. He was a very impressive winner of the Richmond, he’s in good form and he would be our chosen runner on Saturday, all being well.
“We did think about the Gimcrack (at York last month), but he didn’t scope perfectly. It was a minor issue – everything is fine now. He’s a lovely horse with a lot of speed.”
Martyn Meade’s unbeaten colt Method is also among the 10 colts confirmed, as are Michael Bell’s Norfolk Stakes winner The Lir Jet and the Queen’s Windsor Castle and and July Stakes victor Tactical, trained by Andrew Balding.
Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Lipizzaner and St Mark’s Basilica, Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega and John Murphy’s Charterhouse are possible challengers from Ireland.
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