Lucky Vega was one of four horses quoted at +350 or +400 by BetOnline for the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday. The horse with the highest Official Rating offers the best betting value for the Group 1 contest over six furlongs.
The race is open to colts aged two and fillies are not eligible. The Cheveley Park Stakes is the equivalent race for juvenile females. That race often identifies leading contenders for the 1,000 Guineas, while the Middle Park Stakes is a recognised trial for the 2,000 Guineas. However, Rodrigo de Triano was the last colt to win both races, in 1991 and 1992.
Lucky Vega is +1600 across the board to win the first Classic of 2021. However, that price will shorten with a good run at Newmarket this weekend. The five horses shorter in the betting for the 2,000 Guineas have other end-of-season targets. The Dewhurst Stakes in two weeks is the most prestigious race of the season for two-year-old colts and a good form guide for the Guineas.
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The two-week gap between the two races means it is possible to run in both. US Navy Flag won the Middle Park Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes in 2017. However, he bypassed the 2,000 Guineas and then finished second in the Irish equivalent. Lucky Vega has had four starts since June and so has the constitution to run in both Guineas trials this autumn.
The Jessica Harrington-trained colt was sent off the joint favourite with Masters of The Seas for the National Stakes at the Curragh earlier this month. It is one of only two Group 1 races in Ireland for which colts aged two qualify. It is also a major trial for the Guineas in Britain and Ireland.
Lucky Vega finished fifth, two-and-a-half lengths behind the winner, Thunder Moon, who is the current favourite for the 2,000 Guineas. The jockey reported his mount got no sort of run and was checked inside the final furlong. The Middle Park Stakes is a chance for the horse to win a second Group 1 race and then shorten in the betting for the Guineas.
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The Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh is the other Irish Group 1 race for which male juveniles are eligible. Lucky Vega won that race and The Lir Jet was third, three-and-a-half lengths adrift of the winner. Some well-considered juveniles finished outside the frame.
Aloha Star finished second but was penalised and placed third, so The Lir Jet was promoted by one place. Aloha Star has not raced since, and The Lir Jet runs in the Middle Park Stakes but has plenty to find on the ratings. Lucky Vega has progressed, while The Lir Jet now reappears for the first time.
The most informative race in the context of the Middle Park Stakes and, hence, the 2,000 Guineas could be a maiden at Naas in June worth less than €10,000 to the winner. Lucky Vega won the race, beating the odds-on favourite, Lipizzaner, by half a length.
Battleground was unplaced in that race, but he is now the second favourite for the 2,000 Guineas behind Thunder Moon. The horse has since won impressively at Ascot and Goodwood to earn an Official Rating of 112. Lucky Vega’s current mark is 117 with scope for improvement. Lippizaner runs in the Middle Park Stakes but off a significantly lower rating.
Charterhouse and Tactical are outsiders and appear not good enough on paper. Minzaal and Method are the top two in the betting, after both winning two races in two starts. However, the ratings suggest Supremacy is better placed to beat Lucky Vega, as his Group 2 win at Goodwood in July marks the horse down as a decent colt.
Even so, Lucky Vega has the better overall form. He has the profile to win the Middle Park Stakes and then try to emulate Rodrigo de Triano in the 2,000 Guineas next May.