Timeform preview the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday...
The Vertem Futurity Trophy is the last opportunity of the Flat season for two-year-olds to win a Group 1 in Britain, so you would expect the race to be well contested. This has usually been the case, with the median number of runners since the turn of the century being 10. However, Twitter was in uproar on Monday morning following the six-day confirmation stage, with Aidan O'Brien astonishingly responsible for 11 of the 12 contenders.
Andrew Balding, who won the race in 2014 with Elm Park, is the one trainer willing to take on O'Brien, relying on the thrice-raced Kameko.
Kameko is out of a half-sister to Kingsbarns - who won this race for Aidan O'Brien in 2012 - so there is plenty to like about his pedigree, and he looked a good prospect when making a winning debut at Sandown in July.
Kameko then showed much improved form the following month to hold his own against more-experienced rivals in the Solario Stakes at Sandown, where he was beaten a nose by Positive. It was his relative lack of know-how that ultimately cost him victory as he ran green when asked to close on the leaders before rallying well inside the final furlong.
He was strong in the betting for the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket last time, on his first attempt at a mile, but he only matched his previous form, his exuberance potentially costing him against a more experienced rival in Royal Dornoch, who prevailed by a neck.
Kameko seems sure to put the experience gained at Newmarket to good use and you would fancy him to reverse the form with Royal Dornoch here. However, it is probably fair to say that Royal Dornoch doesn't rank at the very top of O'Brien's pool of two-year-olds. O'Brien has won this race in the last two years with colts who have gone on to win the 2000 Guineas, namely Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia, and the horse who stands out as having the best credentials to follow suit is Mogul.
A 3,400,000 guineas purchase as a yearling - and a full-brother to Japan - it is no surprise that Mogul has been sent off at prohibitive odds on all three starts this season. He has done nothing but progress since finishing second on his debut, readily justifying a short price in a maiden on his next start and then taking the step up into pattern company in his stride when successful in the Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown last time.
Connections reported after that race that he would likely be aimed at Doncaster, and this highly-touted sort has been put in a very short price by the bookmakers - at least among those willing to price up the contest.
Admittedly, Mogul looked workmanlike rather than impressive last time, but he still left the impression that there was plenty more left in the tank, and he will likely take all the beating here.
Of O'Brien's other runners who are reportedly set to take their chance, it is Innisfree who makes the most appeal. Another well-bred son of Galileo, he has followed a similar path to Mogul, finishing runner-up on debut before winning a maiden and then handling a step up in grade to win the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last time.
That contest has a history of throwing up some top-notchers, with Japan, Saxon Warrior and Capri all winning since 2016. Innisfree provided O'Brien with a record nineteenth success in the race last month and, for all he won only narrowly, he travelled nicely and showed he had the attitude to go with his class as he eventually got on top near the line. There should be much more to come and it would be folly to rule him out.
The betting and the formbook suggest O'Brien should register a record-equalling tenth success in this Group 1, with only Kameko standing in his way. You would be hard pressed to disagree, for all Kameko may yet to better on just his fourth career start, but it is hard to recommend a bet, with bookmakers offering two places each way at the time of writing. The suggestion is to sit back and enjoy; hopefully we might see something special.
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