The colts get their chance for Group 1 glory on Saturday in the time-honoured Middle Park Stakes. Last year's race resulted in a devastating win for Shalaa, trained by John Gosden. Unfortunately we haven't seen him since but he may resume on British Champions Day at Ascot next week.
Completing his brace of juvenile feature previews is new contributor and aspiring writer Adam Crooks, @acrooks95.
Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes
Group 1, 2yo colts, 6f
Saturday 1530 BST, Sunday 0030 AEST
Ten runners have been declared, and the early favourite is the Godolphin-owned Blue Point. Trained by Charlie Appleby, this exciting son of Shamardal has won three of his four races, including the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes last time out. Sent off at 11/8, he produced a sparkling performance to win eased down by three lengths. Back in second place was the Simon Crisford-trained Mokarris, who lines up once again here. It is hard to envisage Mokarris improving enough to turn the tables, so minor honours look to be his best hope here.
Another horse who finished behind Blue Point in the Gimcrack is The Last Lion. Trained by Mark Johnston, he has had a very busy season already, running nine times, and does not seem to have enough improvement left to mount a challenge.
The master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O'Brien, sends two charges over to try and claim this Group 1 prize. Intelligence Cross is the shorter price of the two, having some solid form this season, easily winning a Group Three last time out. However he was third behind Blue Point and Mehmas at Goodwood the time before, and has to improve a lot to trouble the market leaders here. Many expected Intelligence Cross to be ridden by Ryan Moore, but the declarations were surprising, as Moore has chosen the stablemate, Peace Envoy.
A winner of a Group Three on his penultimate start, he then contested the Group One Prix Morny, finishing a length behind Lady Aurelia in third. Peace Envoy seems to be a horse that is getting better with every run and the fact that Ryan Moore has picked him over Intelligence Cross is significant, all signs point to a big run.
So that just leaves Mehmas to talk about. Trained by Richard Hannon and owned by Al Shaqab, this two-year-old has had a remarkable season thus far, winning four of his seven races and picking up nearly £200,000 in prize money for connections. His debut win over five furlongs at Chester marked him down as a horse to follow, and he followed that up with a victory over six at Newbury. He was stepped back down in trip for his next start, and suffered defeat going down by just over a length in the National Stakes to Global Applause. He was outpaced at a crucial stage that day, and was duly stepped back up in trip on his next outing.
Royal Ascot was the destination of his next trip, contesting the Group 1 Coventry Stakes over six furlongs. He finished a valiant second to Caravaggio, the best two-year-old we've seen this year. Mehmas relished the step back up in trip, and had daylight between himself and the rest of the field. He won a Group 2 at Newmarket next, winning cosily from Intellingence Cross. He would then go on to face Blue Point in his next race, the Group 2 Richmond Stakes. Racing with a three pound penalty, Mehmas drifted in the market prior to the race, but showed a tremendous attitude to prevail by a neck from the Godolphin favourite.
Since that race he was stepped up to seven furlongs at the Curragh, where he was no match for the odds on favourite Churchill. He kept on one paced to finish second, four and a half lengths behind the winner. That step up in trip was an experiment by Richard Hannon to see if the colt would get the extra distance. Personally i feel six furlongs will be his ideal trip, as he has a tremendous turn of foot and a great attitude in his races.
I believe this Group 1 will come down to a battle between Peace Envoy and Mehmas, and I feel that Peace Envoy will just prevail. The main reason is that Mehmas has had a tough season so far and this may be one run too many. Blue Point is a clear danger, but the confidence is clearly high at Ballydoyle with Ryan Moore choosing Peace Envoy, and he is my selction. Available at around 8/1 currently, he is an absolute each way banker in my eyes, and hopefully he can upset the two market leaders.