Fanning lands first One at Last
Joe Fanning celebrated his 46th birthday in style as The Last Lion roared to an all-the-way success in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket to give the veteran rider his first ever Group One success.
Making his 10th appearance of the season, Mark Johnston's admirable youngster - who won the Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster in April - kept the better-fancied horses at bay to score by three-quarters of a length from Gimcrack hero Blue Point.
Fanning gave the 25/1 chance the rein to roll from the start and the Choisir colt did not let him down. Blue Point, the 11/10 favourite, came out of the pack to make a strong challenge, but The Last Lion was not for passing.
Mehmas, who is being retired to stud, 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."
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."
Blue Point's trainer Charlie Appleby said: "He travelled into the race nicely and he had a nice horse in front to aim at but full credit to the winner and he couldn't get past him, so no excuses.
"If Mehmas hadn't have been third beaten two-and-a-quarter lengths, I might have questioned the form but he's beaten him so that's better.
"The Commonwealth Cup at Ascot is the most logical step at the moment."
Harry Herbert, racing manager to Al Shaqab Racing, owners of the Richard Hannon-trained Mehmas, said: "The show is over and he's going to stud and he's been a cracking horse.
"He's been tough and consistent and a great flag-bearer, especially among the two-year-olds, this year. He won the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood which was very special to us and the view from the Sheikh (Joaan) and the team in general was that he's a horse who has done what he's done.
"He's a commercial proposition and he's off to the Tally Ho Stud in Ireland where Kodiac stands. This horse has all of the attributes to be very successful as a stallion and he has great confirmation and it's a career that I'm sure he'll enjoy enormously."
Sunday Indo Sport