RP Trophy Preview: Deck stacked in grey's favour

Kingston Hill winning last year's RP Trophy
Kingston Hill winning last year's RP Trophy

Keith Melrose picks out a bet for Saturday's RP Trophy at double-figure odds.

"Restorer didn’t actually win the Autumn Stakes. There’s a realistic case for saying he emerges as the best prospect, though."

The field for this year's Racing Post Trophy looks to run in contrast to some other recent renewals, albeit with the same man the focus of all the attention. Aidan O'Brien has often used the RP Trophy to anoint his best juvenile, the Crown Prince of Ballydoyle. St Nicholas Abbey, Camelot and Kingsbarns have all been sent on that route in the last five years alone.

Last year was different, more of a three-card trick, and so is 2014 by the look of things. A total of 13 runners are entered at the five-day stage, six of them in O'Brien's care. We really ought to deal with those first.

The onerous task of discussing six juveniles can quickly be halved. O'Brien is reportedly favouring Royal Navy Ship and Giovanni Canaletto for the race and those two are among the most interesting of his squad, along with Jacobean.

Royal Navy Ship and Jacobean already have previous. They met at the Curragh little over a week ago on what was a debut run for both. Jacobean was the chosen one, by Joseph and the betting. The bets looked as though they could well be right in the long term, the more obviously inexperienced Jacobean shaping better than Royal Navy Ship for all that one prevailed by a length and a half on the day.

There are obvious doubts about a horse too raw to do himself justice on debut winning a Group 1 just 13 days on. This is presumably among O'Brien's concerns too, given his implicit endorsement of Jacobean over Royal Navy Ship at the Curragh. Were Jacobean to be declared and remain around 9.08/1, we'd be interested. But that's more of a concern for First-Look Thursday.

At the moment Giovanni Canaletto is even more about potential than Jacobean. He managed just third on his debut, never nearer than the six lengths he finished behind winner Mohaayed. It was a strong race of its type and there's plenty of promise in Giovanni Canaletto's pedigree, being as he is a brother to Derby winner Ruler of The World. Much like in Jacobean's case, the 17-day runway perhaps isn't long enough for Giovanni Canaletto to produce the hop, skip and jump he needs.

Maybe O'Brien's sleight of hand is slightly bigger this year, distracting us with card tricks while our pockets are picked. The suspicion is that the best Ballydoyle juveniles this year are John F Kennedy, Gleneagles and Ol' Man River and that this year's team for the RP Trophy are more Century strength (O'Brien sent three of his lesser lights to this race in 2013) than a concentrated brilliance like Camelot's.

The shortest-priced British runners are Elm Park and Celestial Path. Elm Park feels like a bit of a default favourite, the only one in the field to have proved himself at Group level when winning the Royal Lodge. At 3.39/4 against potential on the scale that this field offers, he's easy to oppose.

Celestial Path is harder to ignore. You're compelled to listen when Sir Mark Prescott campaigns a horse so aggressively. Celestial Path was sent to a good maiden on his debut- he won a good maiden on his debut. He went straight from there to a listed race, which he won even more emphatically. Conditions shouldn't be a problem and Celestial Path, who's entered to run in the Derby when most of the Prescott string will be making their handicap debuts, appeals as a smart colt in the making. We wouldn't rush to put you off backing him at 7.06/1. We think we've found an even better bet, though.

Around 12 months ago a grey son of Mastercraftsman came into the RP Trophy after winning the Autumn Stakes. His name was Kingston Hill and he went on to win at Doncaster, before having what's by any measure a highly-successful three-year-old season. Restorer fits in snugly with Kingston Hill's profile and really should be shorter for this race than he currently is.

Restorer didn't actually win the Autumn Stakes. There's a realistic case for saying he emerges as the best prospect, though. Held up in a steadily-run race, he travelled sweetly only to hang left and then right in the Dip before keeping on in ultimately vain pursuit of Commemorative. Commemorative had enjoyed a soft lead and raced against the rail all the way, barring when he himself hung late on, so it's no exaggeration to put Restorer in his bracket.

Commemorative certainly wouldn't be 17.016/1 for the RP Trophy and nor should Restorer be. Conditions here ought to suit him more than at Newmarket: a flatter track gives him no reason to hang under pressure, while soft ground won't be a problem based on his maiden win at Ffos Las and fairly pronounced knee action. As a little bonus for ante-post punters, the fact he's been supplemented means that Restorer will surely run barring mishap.

The story of the RP Trophy can too often centre on Aidan O'Brien, something we can attest to having spent half of this article picking apart his roster. Luckily, everyone else seems to have been sucked in too and there's value to be had in the ante-post market away from Ballydoyle runners. The advice is to respect Celestial Path and back Restorer.

Recommended Bet
Back Restorer @ 17.016/1 in the RP Trophy

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