Middle Earth claims Noel Murless spoils at Ascot

Middle Earth bounced back from his St Leger disappointment to win the Troy Asset Management Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot.

Following victory in the lucrative Melrose Handicap at York in August, the John and Thady Gosden-trained colt was supplemented for last month’s Doncaster Classic at a cost of £50,000, but finished a well beaten seventh on softer ground.

Back on a sounder surface in Berkshire, Middle Earth was a 9-4 chance for what looked a warm renewal of this Listed contest and ultimately got the job done in good style.

William Buick set out to make every yard of the running aboard St Leger sixth Chesspiece, with Oisin Murphy aboard Middle Earth and Jim Crowley on 6-4 favourite Naqeeb – a half-brother to the top-class pair of Baaeed and Hukum – content to bide their time for much of the one-mile-six-furlong journey.

With Naqeeb unable to pick up, it was Middle Earth who was produced to challenge Chesspiece – and while no quarter was given by either horse or jockey, it was Murphy’s mount who found most when it mattered to prevail by a length. Naqeeb was a further five and a half lengths behind in third.

Murphy, completing a double on the card having earlier steered Andrew Balding’s Hampden Park to success in the colours of Sir Alex Ferguson, told Sky Sports Racing: “Middle Earth found the ground a little bit soft at Doncaster and when I knew I couldn’t run well I looked after him.

“Fortunately he trained well between then and now, John was very happy and Thady felt like his work was good, so he was allowed to take his chance and I’m delighted. It’s a nice way to finish his season and Sheikh Fahad (owner) will be over the moon.

“We’ll look forward to next year. He’s a beautiful horse, easy to ride and he seems to stay well.”

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