No Middle Ground

Saturday’s G1 Juddmonte Middle Park S. at Newmarket will be staged on ground edging towards soft after Friday’s rain and that is certain to play a major part in deciding the destiny of this year’s trophy. One who will be disadvantaged by the wet spell is Sioux Nation (Scat Daddy), who sank in similar conditions when sixth in The Curragh’s Listed Marble Hill S. over this trip May 27 before his emphatic successes on lively surfaces in the June 22 G2 Norfolk S. at Royal Ascot and the Aug. 13 G1 Phoenix S. back in Kildare. He is joined by three others headed by the Phoenix fourth U S Navy Flag (War Front), who handled yielding ground with relish when scoring by six lengths in the G3 Round Tower S. over this trip also at The Curragh Aug. 27. “[Sioux Nation] is in good form and has had a little break since The Curragh,” the master of Rosegreen said. “The better the ground, the better for all of them.”

Soft ground should be no problem for Cheveley Park Stud’s recent acquisition Unfortunately (Ire) (Society Rock {Ire}), who proved his surprise G2 Prix Robert Papin success over 5 1/2 furlongs at Maisons-Laffitte July 23 was no fluke when following up in the G1 Prix Morny at Deauville Aug. 20. Trainer Karl Burke is in confident mood.

“He’s in great nick and looks really well,” he said. “It’s a tough race, but he hasn’t let us down yet and I’m sure he’ll put up a big show. There’s probably not a length between three or four colts on their form. The ground definitely won’t be an issue. He ran on the track in his opening maiden and didn’t particularly come down the hill great from the dip, but that was first time out. I’m not unduly worried about that.”

Another for whom ease in the ground holds no fears is the impressive G2 Gimcrack S. scorer Sands of Mali (Fr) (Panis), who had earlier scored on soft when breaking his maiden at Nottingham Aug. 3. There is little reason to suspect the July 13 G2 July S. winner Cardsharp (GB) (Lonhro {Aus}) can turn around a 3 3/4-length deficit with Sands of Mali on the form of that Aug. 26 York juvenile feature and the winner’s trainer Richard Fahey is preparing for more celebrating.

“We were very, very pleased with winning the Gimcrack,” he commented. “He’s a very talented horse and we’re very happy with him. He’s progressing nicely and he’s rated 116, which puts him as one of the better 2-year-olds of the season. I wouldn’t swap him for anything.”

Newtown Anner Stud Farm’s July 1 G2 Railway S. scorer Beckford (GB) (Bated Breath {GB}) gets another shot at a Group 1 after finishing runner-up to Sioux Nation in the Phoenix and to ‘TDN Rising Star’ Verbal Dexterity (Ire) (Vocalised) in the seven-furlong G1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National S. also at The Curragh Sept. 10.

“Beckford has come out of the National S. well,” trainer Gordon Elliott said. “He didn’t get home over seven furlongs on a testing surface that day and this drop back to six on better ground should be in his favour. Newmarket is a proper racecourse and I don’t think he will have any problem handling its undulations.”

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