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

Old Newton Cup 1m4f Haydock Saturday

Old Newton Cup

The very underrated Keith Dalgleish has done a marvellous job with the ex Sir Michael Stoute trained 5yo, Oasis Dream gelding, Pressure Point.

Luca Cumani has won the Haydock race four times since 1997, (the last time with Mad Rush, 2008) so current joint favourite, Penhill is of interest. He looked an animal to keep on the right side of when winning a Cl3 1m4f Ascot handicap, off a mark of 86 on his reappearance, when a well backed 13/8 fav. He went of at even shorter odds, 6/4, to follow up at Newmarket three weeks later off a 7lbs higher mark in a Cl2 event, but never really got competitive behind Watersmeet. He took a very strong hold, and Cumani reported that Penhill was unsuited by the course. Returned to a left handed turning track, (has won over Nottingham’s similar course) it would be no surprise to see his uber shrewd trainer in the winners enclosure on Saturday.

Andrew Balding’s very progressive 4yo Mount Nelson filly, Elbereth, looks interesting. On only her second start on turf she stepped up considerably on her first, where despite not handling Brighton’s idiosyncratic course, she was only beaten 3/4L in a Cl3 handicap off a mark of 80. Ridden by the very promising 7lb claimer Edward Greatrex, she was stepped up to Cl2 level at the Derby meeting and won cleverly off a mark of 86.(1m2f). Due to race off an 8lb higher mark at the weekend,( 7lbs will again be negated by Greatrex’s claim ) and having won over the distance, albeit on Wolverhampton’s all weather surface, this fast improving filly with just 8st4lbs (including the 7lbs claim) in the plate, has a lot in her favour, and is shortlisted.

The very underrated Keith Dalgleish has done a marvellous job with the ex Sir Michael Stoute trained 5yo, Oasis Dream gelding, Pressure Point. Beautifully bred, this full brother to the Group1 winning Visit, and half brother to the top class filly Promising Lead, who has also succeeded at the top level, was bought out of the Stoute yard, having failed to catch the judges eye as a 3yo. under the Dalgleish tutelage he picked up a Cl5 handicap at Mussellburgh last September off a mark of 67. He won a similar contest at Newcastle in April this year off 70, but it was his last run which emphasised the progress that has been made. Stepped up to Cl3 level at York at the end of May (1m4f) he stayed on well to beat Dance King off a mark of 83. It is quite probable that there is plenty more to come from this very well connected animal, and it will be no surprise to see him staying on strongly up the long Haydock straight at the weekend. Definitely one for the short list.

Roger Varian, whose horses invariably perform well at Haydock, runs his 4yo Galileo colt, Battersea. He won a Cl2 Ascot handicap (1m4f) off a mark of 90 in very taking fashion last September, but disappointed six weeks later in a similar contest, off a 10lbs higher mark at Newmarket. The Newmarket effort was too bad to be true, so considering normal improvement from three to four, he doesn’t look badly treated on 99. Perhaps he is one best caught fresh, so is well worth a second look.

Amanda Perrett’s Sea the Stars 4yo colt, Astronereus, ran a fine race in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot to finish 3rd off a mark of 100. He has been raised 2lbs for Saturday’s contest, giving him an intimidating burden of 9st5lbs to carry. However the Ascot race has been a good guide to this, so provided the two above him in the handicap don’t come out (triggering a further weight rise), his chance has to be respected.

Alan Swinbank, who won with Collier Hill way back in 2003, runs his 4yo Galileo gelding, Kinema. He showed how well suited he is by a truly run race at the trip, when winning over Carlisle’s testing track (1m3 1/2f) last week off a mark of 84. Having run seventeen times he is quite exposed, but he has been mostly campaigned at shorter, so perhaps the step up in trip has elicited improvement. Again partnered by the very talented Ben Curtis, he is worth keeping an eye on.

Selection: Pressure Point.

E.W. Elbereth.

Wokingham Handicap Betting Tips Royal Ascot 6f Saturday

Roger Charlton

Roger Charlton’s Huntsmans Close satisfies many of the criteria. This 5yo Elusive Quality gelding ran a blinder on his reappearance at Newmarket seven weeks ago.

Unfortunately our selection for The Kings Stand, Meccas Angel was withdrawn because of the fast ground, but our E.W. Suggestion, Muthmir, ran a fine race, to get within a head and a neck of the winner. Let’s hope that we can improve on this in Saturday’s cavalry charge, otherwise known as the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot. Invariably run at a cracking pace ( often won in a faster time than the preceding Group1 Diamond Stakes), it takes an animal of serious potential to collect. Four or five year olds have the best recent record, winning thirteen of the last fifteen renewals. Two six year olds have obliged, Baltic King,(2006) and Dandy Boy (2012). Weight is no bar to success as six of the last ten winners have carried 9st 2lbs or more. Indeed Baltic King humped 9st 10lbs to win in 2006 four days after finishing sixth in the Kings Stand. Good recent form has been shown by nine of the last ten winners, the exception being Laddies Poker, who won landing a gamble, on his reappearance.

Roger Charlton’s Huntsmans Close satisfies many of the criteria. This 5yo Elusive Quality gelding ran a blinder on his reappearance at Newmarket seven weeks ago. Running off a mark of 94 he went down by a short head to Eastern Impact in a class2 handicap (6f Gd-fm) recording an eye catching time figure. A winner of his previous race ( Ayr 6f Gd-fm Sep14) of a mark of 87 he has clearly progressed over the winter, and must have serious prospects of defying his new rating of 98 on Saturday. One for the short list!

The French trained 6yo Robert le Diable, has been runner up in his last three races, two of them at group level. He went down by 2L to the speedy Meccas Angel over 5f in a group3 at Longchamp on May10 (Gd-sft) and three weeks later at the same venue, again in a group3, was beaten a sh hd on good ground. An ability to get 7f is a definite plus in big 6f Ascot handicaps so it would be no surprise to see this classy Gallic challenger involved at the business end at the weekend.

Mike Murphy’s 5yo gelding, Discussion to Follow, if the forecast is correct, should have a lot going for him on Saturday. Probably better suited by 6f, he won here over 5f on fast ground last July. He ran far too freely on his reappearance at Newmarket (May30 6f gd-fm) and faded into sixth place, but a reproduction of his form at the Curragh last September would bring him into the picture. He finished 3L behind Watchable, and now meets him on 9lbs better terms. He also meets his Goodwood conqueror, Intrinsic, on 5lbs better terms, and this lightly raced animal is beginning to look well handicapped, and could well have something to say at the finish.

Watchable himself, particularly in the light of Goldreams win in Tuesday’s King Stand, is likely to prove a danger to all. He ran a great race on his reappearance, going down by 1/2L to the top class Astaire, in a 6f Group3 at Newmarket and again ran well when finishing 3L behind Goldream over an inadequate 5f in another Group3 at headquarters sixteen days later. He has been placed on both course appearances, handles fast ground, and in the hands of his hugely talented trainer has an awful lot going for him at the weekend.

Niall Moran’s 5yo Dark Angel entire, Don’t Bother Me is of interest. He ran well in this last year, when a running on seventh, he was beaten less than four lengths off a mark of 98. He put up another fine performance on the track over seven furlongs six weeks later, again off 98, going down by 1L to Heavy Metal, with Watchable rated 103 a neck back in third. As he meets the O’Meara runner on 4lbs better terms he does look well handicapped. However he has to show that he can run to the same level over 6f, and unless there is plenty of rain it seems doubtful.

Selection: Huntsmans Close.

E.W: Watchable.