30 May 2023

Derby runner Dear to break new ground for Middleham Park

30 May 2023

Middleham Park Racing will have their first Betfred Derby runner as Dear My Friend bids to do his owners proud this weekend.

The chestnut is one of 16 possibles for the Epsom Classic on Saturday and will mark a significant milestone when he carries the syndicate’s familiar pale blue and orange silks in the revered Group One.

The colt’s route to the Derby included the Dante at York earlier in the month, an established trial in which he finished eighth, and a win in the Listed Burradon Stakes on Newcastle’s all-weather track in early April.

Those efforts, added to two successes and a handful of Listed and Group performances as a juvenile, have left him on a rating of 104 ahead of the Derby – for which he is currently a 100-1 shot for trainer Charlie Johnston.

“It’s our first ever runner in the race, we’re going into it with eyes wide open,” said Mike Prince of Middleham Park.

“He was well beaten in the Dante but we think the step up in trip will suit him. There’ll be a few horses in the race who don’t say, there’ll be a few horses in the race who don’t handle the track and there’ll be a few horses in the race who don’t handle the occasion – hopefully we’ll be there trying to pick up some of the pieces.

“He’ll need to take a step up in his form, he’s a notch below the favourites at the moment but we’re hoping that step up in trip will lead to some improvement from him. He’s got a lovely, long stride and a slow cadence.”

Though likely to be an outsider with the market favouring Group winners such as Auguste Rodin and Derby Trial winner Military Order, it is not unheard of that a horse at a big price should go well and there are recent examples in Hoo Ya Mal, who was second at 150-1 last year, and 50-1 chance Mojo Star who came second the year before.

Prince said: “There have been some horses at big prices making up the placings in recent years, Hoo Ya Mal was 150-1 and I think the third and fourth that year were big enough prices (Westover at 25-1 and Masekela at 66-1).

“That’s one of the things we said to the owners when were deciding to enter, there’s good place money down to sixth and they’re all delighted that we’re rolling the dice.

“He is rated 104 so he is going there on his merits, it’s a race with a great sense of tradition and there’ll certainly be a good contingent there to support him and enjoy the occasion.”

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