Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (Group1) 1m Doncaster

Known as The Racing Post Trophy for the last 28 years, it is the final Group1 run anywhere in Britain in 2018, and this terms renewal takes it’s new title from the eponymous firm of Stockbrokers. It has proved a solid guide to The Derby with 5 winners going on to success in The Epsom Classic. Reference Point set the ball rolling in 1986 and Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot became the fifth winner in 2011 to collect The Epsom Blue Riband. There have been none since but last year’s winner, Saxon Warrior finished 4th and the 2013 winner, Kingston Hill finished 2nd at Epsom in 2014. The Master Of Ballydoyle has won the contest an amazing 8 times, two of whom (High Chaparral and Camelot) went on to Epsom glory and he will be hoping that one of his 8 contenders (at the time of writing) can get the first leg of the double done on Saturday. Coolmore Stud’s marvellous stallion, Galileo sired the 2012 winner Kingsbarns and following an excellent performance last time out by his son, Japan, hopes must be high of a repeat.

Japan is out of the prolific Danehill mare, (a cross much favoured by the geneticists at Coolmore) Shastye, which makes him a full brother to the talented, Sir Isaac Newton, and the top class mare, Secret Gesture. Unplaced on his racecourse debut, (Curragh 1st Sept) he won a modest Listowel heat 12 days later, staying on strongly over an inadequate 7f, and two and a half weeks after that, took a major step forward when winning the Group2 Beresford Stakes over a mile at Naas, (a race also won by last year’s winner, Saxon Warrior). He was the least fancied Of the 3 O’Brien runners that day, and despite a far from easy passage, he got himself out of trouble at the furlong marker, and finishing strongly, nailed his stable companion, the warm 11/8 Fav, Mount Everest on the line. Further progress will be required on Saturday but with his positive attitude, and impressive pedigree it could well be forthcoming.

Current market leader, and Japan’s stablemate, Magna Grecia, was only having his second start when beaten a neck by the talented French colt, Persian King,(won his 2 previous races by an aggregate of11L) in the Group3 Autumn Stakes at Headquarters a fortnight ago, where stablemate, Western Australia, was a further 6 1/4Lback in 4th. A slightly tenuous form-line through the 4th, would suggest that the first two home are at least equal to, if not superior, to the highly promising Madhmon, who won a Leopardstown Group2 quite easily from Broome 6 week’s ago and the runner ups subsequent close 2nd in Longchamp’s Group1, Prix Jean-Luc Legardre adds definite gravitas to the form. If we take the above form at face value, Magna Grecia will be hard to beat.

The 3rd contender from the Ballydoyle Octet, Norway is a full brother to the 2013 Epsom Derby winner, Ruler Of The World, and he showed that he was going the right way when winning the 10f Listed Zetland Stakes 2 week’s ago. In a muddling race, the son of Galileo quickened of a slow pace to land the spoils, and while further improvement is required at the weekend, he certainly won’t fail for lack of stamina.

The all conquering Gosden yard is represented by Turgenev and Kick On, and of the two, Turgenev looks the more likely to give the trainer his first success in the contest. A son of Dubawi out of a Group2 winning mare, he hacked up in a lowly Class5 heat on Newcastle’s AW, (Sept24) on his 2nd racecourse appearance, and 9 days ago was most impressive when easily beating Aidan O’Brien’s Il Paradiso, in a Class4 Newmarket Novices. Il Paradiso is one of the lesser lights at Ballydoyle, and that Newmarket heat was run in a time nearly 5 seconds slower than standard, but nevertheless, the manner of the victory certainly caught the eye, and Turgenev could be anything.

The Charlie Hills trained Phoenix Of Spain has won two of his four starts, and the manner of his second victory, in York’s 7f Group3 Acomb Stakes, suggested a rapidly improving animal. He stayed on well over the 7f trip to win by 1 1/2L from Watan and had Broome 6 3/4L back in 6th. Further progress was confirmed when stepped up to Group2 level next time, in Doncaster’s 7f Champagne Stakes. He was an excellent 2nd to the subsequent Group1 Dewhurst winner, Too Darn Hot, (Btn 1 3/4L) and if he stays the extra furlong on Saturday he could be involved. There are mixed messages coming from his pedigree, his half brother, Lucky Beggar, trained by Hills, was best at 5f, but 2 other half brothers, Central Square and Kingsdesire stayed 10f.

Selection : Japan (if abs Magna Grecia)

EW. : Norway

John Gray

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