Donn McClean previews the Vertum Futurity Trophy

9 min

We have to get used to calling it the Futurity. Again. The Vertem Futurity Trophy.

You’re following racing for a while if you remember it when it was the Observer Gold Cup, and for longer if you remember it as the Timeform Gold Cup. Its original guise. (Like, do you really remember when the Massey Ferguson Gold Cup was the Massey Ferguson Gold Cup?) But you might remember it as the Futurity Stakes. Before it was the Racing Post Trophy. Well, now it’s the Futurity again.

The roll of honour doesn’t change though. From Noblesse and Ribocco and Vaguely Noble through Reference Point and King’s Theatre and Celtic Swing, to High Chaparral and Brian Boru and Motivator and Authorized and St Nicholas Abbey and Camelot. Last year, Saxon Warrior won the race and Roaring Lion finished second. It’s an impressive roll.

Magna Grecia is the correct favourite for this afternoon’s renewal, the first under the Vertem banner. Aidan O’Brien’s colt was really impressive in winning his maiden at Naas at the end of September on his racecourse debut, and he stepped forward from that significantly last time, when he ran Persian King to a neck in the Group 3 Autumn Stakes at Newmarket.

The Invincible Spirit colt didn’t travel as well as the winner to the two-furlong pole, but he stayed on strongly all the way to the line, and Persian King, who was closer to the stands rail, didn’t have any more in hand than the neck by which he got home. The pair of them pulled nicely clear of their rivals, and the winning time over a mile was similar to the time that Too Darn Hot recorded in winning the Dewhurst Stakes over seven furlongs 35 minutes later.

Also, that was just the second run of Magna Grecia’s life. He could improve considerably for his Autumn Stakes experience.

Donn has little arguments over Magna Grecia favourites tag.

There are two primary unknowns.

Firstly, the ground on Saturday is going to be softer than the ground that he has encountered on his two runs to date. We don’t know how he will cope with easy ground. And secondly, his Newmarket run was just two weeks ago. This will be his third run in a month.

The fact that Team Ballydoyle thought enough of him to pay the supplementary entry fee when they already had six in the race, is significant. But his is short. Those two elements, his Newmarket run and the fact that he is a supplementary entry, are factored into his odds.

Turgenev is the obvious alternative. A fine second to subsequent Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Royal Marine at Doncaster on his racecourse debut last month, John Gosden’s horse was impressive in winning on the all-weather at Newcastle 10 days later, and he stepped forward again to win a one-mile novice stakes at Newmarket on Sun Chariot Stakes day. He won easily that day, and the first two finished well clear of the rest.

The runner-up was beaten in a maiden at Gowran Park at long odds-on in the interim, but Turgenev really couldn’t have been more impressive than he was in winning that Newmarket race. He should step forward again.

It is a deep race though. Phoenix Of Spain was an impressive winner of the Acomb Stakes at York in August and he got to within two lengths of Too Darn Hot in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last time. Circus Maximus ran well to finish third in that Autumn Stakes, while Great Scot was a good winner of a listed race at Haydock last time and Kick On was a good winner of a maiden at Newmarket last time, from which the third has since come out and won a maiden by 10 lengths.

Donn is warm on Raakib Alhawa and makes a case for David Simcock’s Charge in the place market.

That said, it may be that Raakib Alhawa has been under-rated by the market. David Simcock’s horse sprang a 25/1 shock when he won a maiden at Newbury five weeks ago on his racecourse debut.

He was keen enough through the early stages of that race, but he travelled up well on the far side for Andrea Atzeni to move in behind the leaders, and he stayed on strongly from the furlong marker to get up and win nicely under just a hands-and-heels ride.

He probably had more in hand over the runner-up Dashing Willoughby than the bare winning margin of a neck, and the pair of them pulled nicely clear of Beat Le Bon. The third horse upheld the form of that race too next time when he put up a big run to finish second in the Listed Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy.

Dashing Willoughby had had a run before that Newbury race, he had won a maiden at Windsor the previous month, and it is interesting that connections think enough of him to allow him to take his chance today.

It is probable that Raakib Alhawa will improve for that Newbury run, his racecourse debut, before which he was weak in the market. He handled the easy ground that day, and he saw out the mile well.

His dam won over a mile and a half and is from the family of High Chaparral, so any extra emphasis that today’s contest places on stamina should be a positive for the Kingman colt. He could run a big race today, and it might be worth backing him in the place market as well as in the win market.

Earlier this week Donn joined our new Host Tom Stanley and Rory Delargy to preview the National Hunt season ahead on the Matchbook Betting Podcast. If you haven’t already subscribed, search for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’ on your preferred podcasting app.