Middle Park and Del Mar in Ebro River's sights

Hugo Palmer hatching big plans with classy colt.

EBRO RIVER winning the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Group 1)
EBRO RIVER winning the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Group 1) Picture: Pat Healy Photography

The Middle Park Stakes and a trip to the Breeders' Cup are among the missions under consideration for Ebro River  following his creditable effort in Ireland last weekend.

Having claimed top-level honours in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last month, Hugo Palmer's charge returned to the Kildare circuit to bid for a Group One double in what looked a strong renewal of the National Stakes.

The Al Shaqab Racing-owned juvenile ultimately had to make do with minor honours behind the Charlie Appleby-trained Native Trail and Aidan O'Brien's previously unbeaten colt Point Lonsdale, but was far from disgraced.

"He ran a tremendous race really," said Palmer.

"Ryan Moore (on Point Lonsdale) never left James (Doyle, on Ebro River) alone, not even for a second, and I think that probably paid for both Point Lonsdale and Ebro River at the end of the race.

"The winner was very good, but the second and third softened each other up from a very long way out."

Ebro River, who is a son of Palmer's 2000 Guineas hero Galileo Gold, was running over seven furlongs for the first time in the National Stakes – and his trainer admits he could eventually prove to be a more potent force back over shorter distances.

He added: "It's very difficult to say whether he stayed, because I don't think you'd find any arguments against the statement that the National Stakes was the best two-year-old race run so far this year.

"Point Lonsdale was the top-rated two-year-old going into the race; Ebro River was a Group One winner, and Native Trail was unbeaten and remains unbeaten.

"I think it's fair to say Ebro River is not as good over seven furlongs as he is over six, and we're certainly not looking to step him up to a mile next year – we don't see him as a Guineas horse.

"There is a well-documented and straightforward path to the Commonwealth Cup, which has been designed for horses like him."

While Palmer has stamina doubts longer term, he views a potential appearance over a mile at the Breeders' Cup as a likely objective, potentially preceded by a drop back to six furlongs in the Middle Park at Newmarket on Saturday week.

Palmer said: "It's poured with rain all day in Newmarket today. He doesn't need soft ground by any means, but what he doesn't want is firm ground.

"The Middle Park is the most obvious option for him. The alternative is the Jean-Luc Lagardere (at ParisLongchamp), and we're very keen on taking him to the Breeders' Cup to run in the Juvenile Turf over a mile.

"I think a very sharp mile round Del Mar, round two turns, will suit a horse who is already Group One-placed over the stiffest seven furlongs in Europe."

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