A TALENTED field of colts will contest the final Group One of the flat season here in Britain, the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.
Tomorrow’s (Saturday) race has taken several guises down the years – most recently as the Racing Post Trophy – but Doncaster always produces a spectacle worthy of being flat racing’s dramatic finale.
A strong line up will look to follow in the footsteps of High Chaparral, Authorized and Camelot and win a race now sponsored by the company started by John Dance, who is also the owner of four-time Group 1 winner Laurens.
Aidan O’Brien made history on this day at Doncaster last year, as Saxon Warrior’s victory helped the Ballydoyle maestro break Bobby Frankel’s record haul of Group Ones in a calendar year.
MAGNA GRECIA was supplemented into the reckoning at the start of the week and a repeat of the performance O’Brien’s colt produced at Newmarket earlier this month would see the market leader go very close.
MAGNA GRECIA was thrown into the Autumn Stakes on the back of a solitary maiden victory. Andre Fabre’s Persian King was touted as something special before the off, but the French raider had to work extremely hard to see off Donnacha O’Brien’s mount, who came out of the dip better than the favourite before being worn down in the strides before the line.
While Invincible Spirit’s progeny often do better over shorter trips, the way MAGNA GRECIA stayed on at Newmarket suggests the step up in trip will work out and he seems to be a worthy favourite.
A win on Saturday would take O’Brien within one of the late, great Sir Henry Cecil, who saddled 10 winners of the Trophy between 1969 and 1993.
With that in mind, the jolly is likely to be joined by quite a few of his stablemates, with Beresford Stakes winner JAPAN sitting closest to the favourite in the ante-post betting.
Trainer Charlie Hills is sweet on Acomb Stakes winner PHOENIX OF SPAIN, and I share his optimism after seeing him power home at York when he grabbed the inside rail to beat Watan and Persian Moon.
The colt then finished closer to Too Darn Hot than many people expected in the Group Two Champagne Stakes, a result which was boosted by the ease in which his Doncaster conqueror went and won the Dewhurst at Newmarket two weeks ago.
Ground on the soft side of good won’t be an issue for Jamie Spencer’s mount and he already has a strong run on this track under his belt. A price of 11/2 is too good a price to pass on.
Mick Channon’s exciting juvenile CHAIRMANOFTHEBOARD looks a good thing in the Molson Coors Stakes at Newbury tomorrow (Saturday 2.50). Connections were on at 8/1 before he routed his rivals by eight lengths on his Goodwood debut a fortnight ago and finally returned as an even money favourite.
Despite soft ground he ran a faster time than an 82-rated five-year-old who carried 5lb less later in the card and looked different class. He was given a Racing Post Rating of 96 and only two juveniles have beaten that first time out in Britain or Ireland in 2018 – Calyx and Ten Sovereigns.
In Cheltenham’s Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase today (Friday) at 4.20, Dan Skelton’s SAM RED is expected to improve from his last run 18 days ago and should make the frame, while a rejuvenated DIAKALI can score again over fences at 2.35.