Timeform's Matt Gardner goes back to school as he attempts to find the winner of the RP Trohpy, to be run at Doncaster on Saturday...
"Steeler improved as expected when stepped up to a mile in the Royal Lodge, battling on well to assert inside the final furlong..."
When I was at school, fortunately in the not too dim and distant past, reports came in little brown envelopes and offered my parents insight as to their progeny was getting on, comprising comments on individual lessons and an overall comment, with words such as "outstanding, conscientious, hard-working and incredibly talented" simply littering the pages. It was all rather embarrassing truth be told but, on balance, a fair reflection of my progress. I wish.
For the two-year-old thoroughbred coming to the end of his first season in training it is almost like graduating from primary school to secondary, where their mettle will really be tested at the top level. Those competing in the RP Trophy will harbour hopes of Classic success, so the time may be apt to take stock of their development, analyse their chances on Saturday and hazard a guess as to what they might go on to achieve in the future.
For the sake of continuing the metaphor, and because I quite fancy putting myself in the shoes of my old school teachers who bore the weight of my pocket money increase in their pen hand, the dissection of Doncaster's feature will be carried out in the same style. At the time of writing there are 15 entries, but this is a run-down of the more likely/intriguing contenders should they run.
Battle of Marengo (Aidan O'Brien)
Has improved on each of his four starts so far, looking green on debut but still managing to finish third before racking up three wins, including the Group 2 Beresford Stakes on his latest start. Looks an exciting prospect and is likely to stay a mile and a quarter next season.
Grade Achieved: A- Future Prospects: A
Eye of The Storm (Aidan O'Brien)
Is by Galileo and out of a Shirley Heights mare, so is very much one for longer trips, and the stiff test of stamina presented to him on debut proved ideal as he ran out a ready winner. He ran well when third in the Autumn Stakes just four weeks later, shaping a bit better than the bare result having not enjoyed the clearest run through, and whilst he'll come into his own over middle distances next year, it would be no surprise were he to go well here.
Grade Achieved: C Future Prospects: A+
Fantastic Moon (Jeremy Noseda)
Cost 210,000 gns as a yearling and made an impressive debut when beating subsequent winner Snowboarder at Newmarket. Created an even deeper impression upped in grade when coming from last to first in the Solario Stakes, beating Tha'Ir by a head, and would have at least finished in the first three in the Royal Lodge but for meeting traffic problems. Connections have suggested he won't run if the ground is too soft, leaving a tilt at the Breeders' Cup a distinct possibility.
Grade Achieved: B+ Future Prospects: A
Festive Cheer (Aidan O'Brien)
Is very much unexposed, seemingly in need of the experience on debut at the Curragh before improving markedly to get off the mark at Dundalk, value for much more than the winning margin of two lengths would suggest. Faces a much sterner test here but is an exciting prospect.
Grade Achieved: C+ Future Prospects: A
First Cornerstone (Andrew Oliver)
A winner of two of his three starts he has progressed well with each run, landing an admittedly substandard renewal of the Futurity Stakes on his most recent outing. It is of note that he was purchased by Team Valour, who are based in the US, prior to that effort, and there is every chance he could head to the Breeders' Cup.
Grade Achieved: B+ Future Prospects: A-
Havana Gold (Richard Hannon)
Is really quite unfortunate not to be unbeaten in six starts, as he unseated when looking likely to win in the Prix Francois Boutin at Deauville and met with the progressive Ghurair, going down by just a head. It is difficult to crab his versatility, having won at a variety of trips on differing ground, but he is not open to the same level of improvement as some of his rivals.
Grade Achieved: A Future Prospects: B
Kingsbarns (Aidan O'Brien)
Had had just the one run, leaving him in the unexposed boat alongside stablemate Eye of The Storm, and he is open to plenty of improvement now upped in grade. There was little depth to the maiden he won at Navan but he was most impressive, winning with consummate ease, and he is likely to take his place in this line up having been supplemented.
Grade Achieved: C Future Prospects: A
Steeler (Mark Johnston)
Has made an excellent start to his career winning three of his five outings and finishing second on the remaining two. Given that he is very much bred for stamina it shows the level of talent he possess that he has managed to do so well in four starts at seven furlongs, but he improved as expected when stepped up to a mile in the Royal Lodge, battling on well to assert inside the final furlong. He is not as flashy as some but is progressive in his own right, his attitude likely to count for plenty here, and there is every chance he could go on to contest the top middle distance races next year.
Grade Achieved: A Future Prospects: A+
Trading Leather (Jim Bolger)
Clearly regarded by connections, as he made his debut in a listed event (finished second to Battle of Marengo), and he has won his two starts since. The latest triumph, in the Autumn Stakes, showed a smart level of form as he battled on well, showing a good attitude and that he would be suited by middle distances. Certainly of interest for this event, but he may be one more for next season.
Grade Achieved: A- Future Prospects: A+
Van Der Neer (Richard Hannon)
Comes into this event boasting an unbeaten record, having won a decent maiden at Yarmouth and a minor event at Leicester, taking the eye with his style of victory on each occasion. Hails from a top yard and has been supplemented for this and, whilst he is likely to go on improving, he is not certain to appreciate a mile judged on pedigree.
Grade Achieved: C Future Prospects: B+
A class chock full of talent then, and one that could produce a couple of stars for next season. The pair that make most appeal for this event are Steeler and Battle of Marengo, with the former taken to come out on top. His attitude and determination have struck accord this season and, coupled with the improvement likely to come, he is the obvious one at the current price of 7.613/2.
Whilst on the subject of future prospects and potential leading lights of next season, the ante-post market for the 2013 Derby catches the eye. Both the 28.027/1 available about Steeler and the 34.033/1 that is being bandied about for Eye of The Storm is tempting, both looking worthwhile investments as they are unlikely to be that sort of price should they run well on Saturday, and are both expected to show their true colours when upped in distance next year.