Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien has used Doncaster’s Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy ( formerly Racing Post Trophy ) as an end of season major test for some of his future stable stars down the years including the likes of Derby winners High Chaparral and Camelot, his latest victory coming 12 months ago with subsequent 2000 Guineas victor Saxon Warrior.
Of his three representatives in the latest renewal on Saturday afternoon the hugely promising Magna Grecia was expected to make it win number nine for O’Brien and in a thrilling finish the son of Invincible Spirit justified 2-1 favouritism to hold off the Charles Hills-trained Phoenix Of Spain by a head.
Jockey Donnacha O’Brien was content to let Magna Grecia track stablemates Western Australia and Circus Maximus in the early part of the race and when that pair quickened the tempo inside the last two furlongs they had most of the field in trouble. But in the closing stages the two principles burst through to fight out the finish with the winner always looking to be holding Jamie Spencer’s mount who had previously ran this season’s leading juvenile Too Darn Hot to a length and a three quarters in the Champagne Stakes on the course last month. Following a stewards’ enquiry into whether Magna Grecia had unfairly impeded the runner-up close home, the result was allowed to stand.
Too Darn Hot currently heads the ante-post market for next year’s Qipco 2000 Guineas at a best price 6-4 while Magna Grecia is available at a top price 16-1 with Ladbrokes and Betfair Sportsbook, odds which could prove very generous come next May. The powerful Ballydoyle stable are also responsible for Ten Sovereigns ( a standout 11-1 with Betfair Sportsbook ) but with that horse’s stamina in question it would be no surprise should Magna Grecia end up the stable’s main hope for the first Classic of the 2019 season in a bid to win that race for a tenth time.
After riding his sixth Group 1 winner of the season O’Brien junior said of Magna Grecia’s performance: “ He’s still a bit raw and he’s improving and will be better next year. He toughed out in the last furlong.”
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