Last Lion roars to Middle Park victory
The Last Lion roared to an all-the-way success in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.
Making his tenth appearance of the season, Mark Johnston's admirable two-year-old kept the better fancied horses at bay to give Joe Fanning his first Group One triumph and on his 46th birthday.
Fanning gave the 25-1 chance the rein to roll from the start and the Choisir colt did not let him down.
Gimcrack winner Blue Point, the 11-10 favourite, came out of the pack to make a strong challenge, but The Last Lion was not for passing and prevailed by three-quarters of a length.
Mehmas, who is being retired to stud at the end of the campaign, was two and a quarter lengths away in third.
Fanning said: "I've ridden a lot of Group Twos and Threes, but never a Group One so it's nice to finally nail that one. It's nice to do it, and on one of Mark's as well – it's great."
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He added: "The owner said if he was in the first five he'd have run well. We always thought he was better on soft ground, it's quick today but he's done it well."
Johnston said: "He's a fantastic horse and it's a fairy story right from the beginning because many years ago we had Mister Monet here (in 2004) for the Champion Stakes and he broke his leg and didn't make it.
"When I saw this horse at Goffs (Sales) from the same family I phoned John Brown (co-owner) and said you've got to have this one.
"I've said you shouldn't pigeon hole horses after one or two runs. After the Brocklesby Franny (Norton) said he'd be better on faster ground and here he is.
"It's fantastic for Joe. He's ridden a huge number of winners for us over the years. He usually doesn't get the opportunity to ride in Group Ones. Hopefully he'll get a few more before he retires.
"He gives us loyalty. He came to us when he was just out of his apprenticeship. Many times he's been jocked off over the years and had to play second fiddle to a chain of jockeys. He never complains. He turns up every day and never lets us down.
"He's always been there for us when we need a jockey.
"I think that's enough for this horse for one year."
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