Consistent Last Lion targets first Group triumph at Kempton

The Last Lion ridden by Franny Norton wins the Betway Brocklesby Conditions Stakes at Doncaster in April this year. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.
The Last Lion ridden by Franny Norton wins the Betway Brocklesby Conditions Stakes at Doncaster in April this year. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.
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BROCKLESBY winner The Last Lion is aiming for a first Group win in the totequadpot Sirenia Stakes at Kempton.

Trained by Middleham’s Mark Johnston, the Choisir colt has been ultra-consistent all year having been seen at the first meeting of the season at Doncaster.

Trainer Mark Johnston hopeful of The Last Lion enjoying success at Kempton on Saturday.

Trainer Mark Johnston hopeful of The Last Lion enjoying success at Kempton on Saturday.

Yet to be out of the frame in any of his seven races, he has been second at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood.

He was third in a red-hot Gimcrack at York last time out and connections were contemplating waiting for the Flying Childers at Doncaster next week but decided this Group Three was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Johnston’s son and assistant Charlie said: “He has not run a bad race all season. He’s proved versatile over five or six furlongs and on quick ground and soft – he’s been on the go since the Brocklesby.

“We were tempted to wait until Doncaster and the Flying Childers with him but we just felt that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and this race looked his for the taking. He’s top-rated and it looks like they all have him to beat.”

Ladbrokes St Leger heroine Simple Verse is the star name among 19 entries for the DFS Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster on Thursday.

Ralph Beckett’s filly has yet to get her head in front this season and returns to the scene of her controversial Classic success in which she lost the race in the stewards’ room but was given it back on appeal.

Beckett also has Alyssa, winner of her last three races, and York Silver Cup scorer Pamona.

Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive filly Abingdon, winner of the Galtres Stakes at York last month, is an interesting entry.

Aidan O’Brien has put in Yorkshire Oaks fourth Pretty Perfect, while his son Joseph has Arya Tara, who was third in the Irish St Leger Trial on her latest start.

O’Brien junior is also due to ride in the Leger Legends charity race which kicks off the four-day festival on Wednesday, with proceeds split between Doncaster’s Northern Racing College and Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund rehab centre at Malton.

James Doyle, meanwhile, is set to ride Ed Dunlop’s Red Verdon in the St Leger next Saturday.

Godolphin’s retained rider has still to win an English Classic, though he did partner John Gosden’s brilliant Kingman to victory in the Irish 2000 Guineas in 2014.

Bryan Smart’s yard is in a rich vein of form and the Hambleton trainer will be hopeful that Nameitwhatyoulike – winner of Ripon’s Great St Wilfrid last month – can land York’s feature Betfred Garrowby Stakes tomorrow.

The horse has been instrumental to the comeback of jockey Connor Beasley who suffered life-threatening injuries at Wolverhampton in July of last year, and who credits the aforementioned Jack Berry House for the speed of his miraculous recovery.

Ebor-winning jockey Adam McNamara, meanwhile, returns to the scene of his greatest triumph for three rides, including Iain Jardine’s Pointillism who runs in the colours of 2013 Grand National hero Auroras Encore.