Tag Archive for: Tom Palin

Middleham Park aiming to put a ring on Ascot success

Connections believe popular colt Shouldvebeenaring has “unfinished business” in Pattern races as they target Royal Ascot glory in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes.

The four-year-old has been knocking on the door for Group-class triumphs ever since making the step up from Listed company after his victory in the King Charles II Stakes at Newmarket in May 2023.

His near-misses include a second in the Sandy Lane Stakes on his next run, before returning to Haydock last September to be beaten by a neck in the Sprint Cup behind Regional.

A third in the Group One Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs at ParisLongchamp followed in October, while more recently the Richard Hannon-trained colt was a nose behind Mill Stream at York on his penultimate start.

Shouldvebeenaring, right, has had several near-misses in Group company over the last 13 months (Tim Goode/PA)

That run gives his owners plenty of optimism regarding another strong performance at the Royal meeting, where Shouldvebeenaring aims to improve on his seventh-place finish in last year’s renewal of the Commonwealth Cup.

“You can imagine that slightly patient tactics at Ascot could work,” said Tom Palin, of Middleham Park Racing.

“He didn’t disgrace himself by any stretch of the imagination in the Commonwealth Cup last year, I just think we were drawn on the wrong side, so there is a bit of unfinished business at Ascot.

“But really his season revolves around the six-and-a-half-furlong French Group One (Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville in August) and going back to Haydock for that Sprint Cup, where we really do have unfinished business in that Group One against Regional.

“Those are probably his two Derbys for the year, but absolutely the Jubilee will be his next run and we’re looking forward to seeing how that pans out.

“If we have a bit of pace on our side, hopefully we can come and pick them up late on – and normally it’s not a bad thing to do at Ascot.”

Globetrotting Brave Emperor returns to British soil for the first time since finishing down the field in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot last year.

Successes in France, Germany, Italy and Qatar have earned the Archie Watson-trained four-year-old an entry in the Queen Anne Stakes this time around.

Malc, trained by Richard Fahey, will renew his rivalry with Elite Status in the Commonwealth Cup at the same venue where he beat him by half a length when second in the Norfolk Stakes 12 months ago.

Middleham Park are also enthused by two-year-old Glorious Kitty, who came fourth on debut in the Marygate at York for Mick and David Easterby last month, as she makes her second career start in Berkshire.

Palin said of Brave Emperor: “He is thoroughly deserving of a stab at these sorts of races.

“He’s earned his right to have a go the hard way by doing Listed races, Group Threes and Group Twos in far-flung places, so there’s not a more deserving horse to roll the dice in one of these English Group Ones.

“And as you saw in the Lockinge, it is a wide-open division, and who knows, he might be able to get loose rolling away at the front end in the same way Audience did and he might just stay there, we know he’s a tough horse to go past.”

On Malc, Palin added: “He was second in the Norfolk last year, so he’s got previous at Ascot.

“He’s had his little ailments at the end of his two-year-old career, but I felt the way the race panned out in the Carnarvon at Newbury, again we were just drawn this side and we were the best of anything drawn that side by quite a long way.

“I know Elite Status looked mighty impressive that day and he was always held in high regard, but we did beat him at Ascot last year and I feel that if you change the draw, at least put us over that side, we would have definitely given Elite Status something to think about.

“The way that Ascot pans out for the likes of Malc, just a little more patient tactics, I expect him to be quite a live 66-1 each-way shot.”

Speaking about Glorious Kitty, he said: “She will either go for the Queen Mary or the Albany. She ran fourth in the Marygate on debut, so she’s a hugely exciting horse with Mick and Dave Easterby.”

Try Tix for Better Tote Returns

Marie’s Rock has Royal Ascot option after Flat debut

Marie’s Rock is hoping to replicate her successful hurdling career on the Flat as connections target Royal Ascot for her next assignment.

The nine-year-old made the transition while the jumps season was winding down and produced an encouraging debut when fifth at York in the Group Three Bronte Cup last month.

She made a slow start for jockey Jim Crowley in the mile-and-six-furlong contest on the Knavesmire, and was at the rear for much of the race before passing five rivals inside the closing stages to spark some optimism for owners Middleham Park Racing.

Marie’s Rock, who has claimed graded triumphs at Cheltenham, Punchestown and Doncaster over obstacles, is looking to add further titles to her glittering career, with connections believing the Nicky Henderson-trained mare can improve from her first running on the level.

She is lined up for the two-mile-and-six-furlong Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal meeting, with the Pontefract Castle Fillies’ Stakes on June 23 also under consideration as a possible alternative.

Her excursion to the Flat is not a flash in the pan, however, as future black-type races are in the works for the versatile mare later this summer before returning to hurdling.

“It was the first time she was on the Flat so you can forgive her that,” said Tom Palin of Middleham Park Racing.

“According to Timeform, she ran to 100 which I think that gives us plenty of scope and plenty of encouragement that there’s avenues to explore on the Flat and we might be able to pick up some black type and maybe a win or two before the more traditional season, for her, begins.

“She will have an entry at Ascot in the Queen Alexandra and there’s also a fillies’ Listed race at Pontefract the day after and that’s over one-mile-four, so a huge discrepancy in distances.

“Jim suggested that distance isn’t really the issue here, she will be perfectly fine over two-mile-six or one-mile-four, just the way the race needs to be set up for her will be the biggest determining factor.

“And we will work on what the ground is. At Ascot you can get the very soft Ascot, she could get the very quick Ascot, so we will look at those two and then it might lead us into a Lillie Langtry at Goodwood – those kind of races.

“There are lots of options for her in those fillies-only staying races.”

Try Tix for Better Tote Returns

‘No firm decision’ as connections of Marie’s Rock weigh up Festival choice

Connections of Marie’s Rock are still no nearer to determining whether she will defend her Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle or instead attempt to land the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next week.

The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old made a sparkling return to action, winning the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day, having not run since taking a second successive Grade One victory in the Mares’ Champion Hurdle at Punchestown last April.

The Middleham Park Racing-owned mare will be seeking a fifth consecutive victory regardless of which race she contests.

She is a general 3-1 joint second-favourite behind Honeysuckle for the two-and-a-half-mile Mares’ Hurdle on Tuesday and a general 7-2 second-favourite for Thursday’s three-mile Stayers’ Hurdle.

Middleham Park racing manager Tom Palin said the weather will play a major part in their decision.

He said: “There are no firm plans, I’m afraid. I know Nicky is championing the Stayers’ but in our conversations, there isn’t a firm decision.

“He wouldn’t be solely in the Stayers’ camp, nor am I solely in the Mares’ camp.

“I think I’d be right in saying neither of us would want to try her over three miles on the testing course at Cheltenham in soft ground.

“We do need to see just what the weather does and that is obviously very unsettled at the moment.”

Blazing Khal has headed the Stayers’ Hurdle market since winning the Boyne Hurdle at Navan last month, on his first start in 14 months.

However, he subsequently suffered a setback and trainer Charles Byrne will give him a final piece of work on Friday before determining whether or not he will take his chance.

“Blazing Khal has a date with destiny tomorrow by all accounts, so that is something to factor in,” added Palin.

“If the Stayers’ Hurdle favourite isn’t in the race tomorrow afternoon, that is something sizable to take in. There is nothing set in stone.

“We will probably make the decision at 9.50am on Sunday. If there hadn’t been any rain around and Blazing Khal was out, I would say that would have a very, very big swing on where we go, I would imagine.

“But it doesn’t look like it will be guaranteed good ground at this point.”

Henderson also has the JP McManus-owned Epatante – who was overturned by Marie’s Rock when odds-on favourite at Punchestown – entered in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Potentially the race registered at the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle is one the most competitive events of the four-day meeting.

Nicky Henderson also has Epatante in the Mares' Hurdle
Nicky Henderson also has Epatante in the Mares’ Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

Palin added: “If it is soft ground, like it is probably going to be on Tuesday, the extra stamina that we might have in a Stayers’ will surely come to the fore in the Mares’.

“Soft ground, up that hill, is Epatante guaranteed to get it in soft ground? That is a question.

“Lest we forget, we are 1-0 against her, having beaten her at Punchestown.

“It could be a mouthwatering race. The winners of the last three Champion Hurdles taking each other on, and you put in there Marie’s Rock, who is no slouch and is defending champion, and arguably the best filly in training this side of the Irish Sea, then chuck in young pretenders like Love Envoi, Brandy Love and Theatre Glory, and it really is the race of the meeting!”

Try Tix for Better Tote Returns