Saturday’s Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster is the final Group 1 of the British horse racing season, with Naas winner Magna Grecia favourite over Group 3 winner Phoenix Of Spain, and the all-conquering John Gosden's Turgenev.
First held as the Timeform Gold Cup in 1961, the Vertem Futurity Trophy was more recently staged as the Racing Post Trophy. It's a Group 1 for two-year-olds run over 1m, and traditionally serves as a good guide to who will be challenging for next year's Classics.
Saxon Warrior (2017) is among the most recent winners to go on to 2,000 Guineas glory, Motivator (2004), Authorized (2007), and High Chaparral (2002) all winning the Epsom Derby, while Brian Boru (2003) took the St Leger, and Camelot (2011) won the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, and Irish Derby.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the Vertem Futurity Trophy six times this century, and four times in the past 10 years. Pick of the O’Brien contingent this time looks to be Magna Grecia (13/8 Bet365), the impressive winner of a 7f maiden at Naas (good) at the end of September.
The son of Invincible Spirit was then beaten a neck by French raider Persian King in a competitive Group 3 at Newmarket, the pair pulling clear of their six rivals. It was a good first performance in Group company and, as such Magna Grecia looks a very worthy favourite, particularly with further improvement likely to follow.
Chief market rival to Magna Grecia is the Charlie Hills-trained Phoenix Of Spain, a colt who has won half of his four starts, including a 7f Group 3 on good-to-firm going at York in August.
The son of Lope De Vega followed that effort up with second to this season's leading two-year-old colt Too Darn Hot in a Group 2 over the same distance at Doncaster.
With that rival going on to win the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, he brings strong form into this race and is worth an each-way bet at 11/2 with William Hill.
Two runners arrive at Doncaster unbeaten, albeit having only run once. The pick of the pair looks to be Raakib Alhawa (14/1 Bet 365). Trained in Newmarket by David Simcock, the son of former top juvenile Kingman was seemingly unfancied at 25/1 for a valuable conditions stakes - held on good-to-soft going at Newbury in September.
Khalifa Dasmal's colt recorded a neck victory, with the form since stacking up a little, given that the runner-up had won before, and that the third Beat Le Bon went on to be a close second in a 21-runner Listed race.
Raakib Alhawa has a lot to do to prove he can be as good as previous winners of the Newbury race he won, a roll of honour that includes Derby winners Henbit and Shergar plus Group 1 performers like Nayef and King's Theatre, but he has started his career well and is worth backing each-way at 16/1 with Paddy Power
King Ottokar (16/1 William Hill), a son of the 2004 Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Motivator, also won at Newbury on debut, his success coming by a nose on soft ground over 7f last month. The well beaten fifth-placed horse Shoot For Gold has franked the form with an impressive Windsor victory and it will be interesting to see how he fares himself, stepping up markedly in grade.
Remarkable, trainer John Gosden has never won the Vertem Futurity Trophy, the neck second for Roaring Lion last year being as close as he’s come to. He runs Turgenev (9/2 Black Type), who shaped well when finishing runner-up in a 7f maiden on good-to-soft going at Doncaster's St Leger meeting.
The son of Dubawi has followed that promising effort up with two impressive victories over 1m, firstly in an all-weather novice event at Newcastle and most recently when justifying odds-on favouritism on good going in a similar race at Newmarket. But will he win again?
With all of the above in mind, Phoenix Of Spain looks the best each-way bet, having shown his class at Doncaster before and, with the step up in distance likely to suit, the 11/2 (William Hill) about him appeals. Of those at bigger prices, Raakib Alhawa makes most appeal at 14/1 (Bet365).
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