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2018 Vertem Futurity Trophy tips – 5/1 shot can rise above Doncaster rivals in flat racing’s Group One finale

Jonathan Vine 25 Oct 2018
Phoenix Of Spain (second right, pink) finishing second behind Too Darn Hot (left) in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.

Our expert takes a look through the ante-post betting for the final Group One of the flat racing season and provides readers with his tips for Doncaster on Saturday 27th October.

It seems like only yesterday that we were building up to the 2000 Guineas, but on Saturday a talented field of colts will take to the field and contest the final Group One of the flat season here in Britain, the Vertem Futurity Trophy. This race has taken several guises down the years – most recently the Racing Post Trophy – but no matter what the race sponsors might be, Doncaster always produces a spectacle worthy of being flat racing’s dramatic finale.

A strong field will look to follow in the footsteps of High Chaparral, Authorized and Camelot and win the Vertem Futurity Trophy. Our expert has taken a look through the betting and provided readers with his tips.

4:05pm Doncaster Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (Group 1) (Class 1) 1m

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 (13/8 Ladbrokes) 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 really 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 warn 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 Aidan O’Brien within one of the late, great Sir Henry Cecil, who saddled ten winners of the Trophy between 1969 and 1993. With that in mind, I expected Magna Grecia would be joined by quite a few of his stablemate, but it seems Aidan O'Brien is fully confident in the favourite's ability.

Japan and Broome have both come out of the betting after today's final declaration stage. Circus Maximus (14/1 BetVictor) - who finished three lengths behind his stablemate at Newmarket - and Western Australia (33/1 BetVictor) remain in the running, but Magna Grecia is obviously Ballydoyle's number one and punters have been taking chunks out of him every since.

Magna Grecia (left, far, purple) battling with Persian King (left, near, blue) in the closing stages of the Godolphin Autumn Stakes.

Broome finished sixth of eight in the Acomb Stakes, won in impressive fashion by Phoenix Of Spain (5/1 Ladbrokes), who powered home along the inside rail to beat Watan and Persian Moon. Charlie Hills’ 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.

The intriguing element in the Vertem Futurity Trophy betting is certainly Turgenev (4/1 William Hill), who’s won two of his three starts in minor contests for John Gosden. After losing out to Royal Marine on debut here at Doncaster, the son of Dubawi has cruised to two simple victories in novice contests at Newcastle and Newmarket. The fact Frankie Dettori – who very rarely takes rides at non-televised meetings – has been in the saddle for all three of his appearances suggests the yard thinks very highly of Turgenev and he’s been backed to take the leap in class in his stride.

Tom Dascombe has watched Great Scott (16/1 BetVictor) win three of his four seasonal starts, with his only defeat coming in a Listed race in France, where he was denied by just a head. The Requinto colt hacked up through heavy ground at Haydock to win the Listed Ascendant Stakes on his most recent run and any further rain could see his price begin to shorten.

Turgenev could be joined at Doncaster by Kick On (16/1 William Hill), who made all to win a competitive maiden at Newmarket under Oisin Murphy. Raakib Alhawa (16/1 Paddy Power) and King Ottokar (20/1 Ladbrokes) could both appear in this Group One after just two appearances between them, but I would favour the more experienced juveniles in the top half of the betting and it’s in that direction where I’ll look to find my selection.

Jamie Spencer pushes Phoenix Of Spain (near) to Acomb Stakes glory at York.

Turgenev could turn out to be anything, but it’s hard to read anything into the form of his maiden victories and this is a huge step up in grade.  While Magna Grecia was impressive behind Persian King at Newmarket, this race obviously wasn’t on the agenda until fairly recently and I don’t find his odds particularly enticing. 

With that in mind, I'm going to pin my colours on PHOENIX OF SPAIN, who has impressed throughout the season and I fancy Charlie Hills’ colt will get the win on Saturday.

After a maiden victory at Wolverhampton, Hills’ charge was heavily backed in the build-up to the Acomb Stakes and cut an imposing silhouette in the parade ring before the off. Under Jamie Spencer, Phoenix Of Spain tanked through the race, seeing off a couple of rivals rated in the low-to-mid 100s with the minimum of fuss. Naturally, all eyes were drawn to Too Darn Hot in the closing stages of the Champagne Stakes, but Phoenix Of Spain responded very nicely to his rider’s urgings and the two finished a comfortable distance clear of the chasing pack and both cantered over the line.

I’m certain the step up to a mile could be ideal for Phoenix Of Spain and he looks more of a Derby type than a Guineas contender – a race for which he currently holds entry. 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. 5/1 is too good a price to pass up!

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2018 Vertem Futurity Trophy tips – 5/1 shot can rise above Doncaster rivals in flat racing’s Group One finale

Our expert takes a look through the ante-post betting for the final Group One of the flat racing season and provides readers with his tips for Doncaster on Saturday 27th October.

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