Expert insight for the final British Group 1 of the season as Wembley is out
Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (Group 1) | 2yo | 1m | ITV4/Sky
If you want to know who will be crowned champion two-year-old colt in Europe, the winner of the Dewhurst is usually the first port of call, but if you want to know who will be coming home in front in the first Classic the following season, the Vertem Futurity is the place to go.
The last three Dewhurst winners, US Navy Flag, Too Darn Hot and Pinatubo are all retired, and of those only Pinatubo lined up in the 2,000 Guineas, finishing third.
Conversely, Kameko, Magna Grecia and Saxon Warrior all progressed from Doncaster to win at Newmarket the following spring, while Camelot also completed the Futurity/Guineas double in the last ten years.
As is normal for this time of year, Aidan O'Brien is seemingly inundated with high-quality juveniles, and at Monday's entries stage had seven options for this race. Interestingly, he opted to send only one of those seven to Town Moor, although Wembley was arguably his strongest contender.
Not since 2012 has there been a Futurity without multiple O'Brien runners in the field, but that year Kingsbarns won for the yard. Wembley deserves to head the market on the strength of his seconds in the National Stakes at the Curragh and the Dewhurst.
However, his hold-up style leaves him vulnerable to playing catch up when those in front have taken flight. An extra furlong will help mitigate that problem but for all his good form, he only has a Roscommon maiden to his name from six starts.
While O'Brien has nine Futurity winners to his credit, Charlie Appleby has yet to strike in the race. In fairness to the Godolphin trainer, he has not targeted this contest too often, and One Ruler will be his first runner since 2017.
Winner of the Autumn Stakes last time, One Ruler should have no problems with the mile trip, nor soft ground, as evidenced by his victory at Newmarket, where he asserted in the closing stages, although he may have been on the best ground against the stands' rail. He has progressed and boasts solid claims.
The case for King Vega is not as straightforward. He is trained by Andrew Balding, who won the race last year with Kameko and that is an obvious plus, although it must be weighed against the fact King Vega is a two-race maiden. The last maiden to win this was Authorized in 2006 when the race was staged at Newbury.
King Vega was second on his debut in a Sandown maiden then filled the same position in the Group 3 Solario there. The form of those two starts is decent but looks a touch short of being Group 1 class.
David Baxter, Juvenile Judge
Wembley history in the making
Aidan O'Brien has a crack at matching Sir Henry Cecil when Wembley bids for the Vertem Futurity on Saturday. Another win would give the trainer a tenth victory in the race, to equal Cecil's total racked up between 1969 and 1993.
O'Brien would beat the ten-time champion trainer to double figures by a year should Wembley score, having won the race for the first time 23 years ago in 1997 with Saratoga Springs.
The Derby and Irish 2,000 Guineas entry looks well up to scratch for a yard whose High Chaparral, Brian Boru, Camelot, Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia all went on from success in the last British Group 1 race of the season to take Classics the following year.
He was staying on when second in the 7f National Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes on his last two runs and promises to be well suited by a mile.
O'Brien said: "He hasn't done a whole lot since the Dewhurst. We were delighted with his run there and he seems to be in very good form since."
His son Joseph was on board Camelot and Kingsbarns, and would become the first man to ride and train a winner if State Of Rest were to go two places better than when third in the 7f Champagne Stakes here.
O'Brien said: "We were delighted with his run in the Champagne Stakes. This has been the plan since then. We're a little bit worried about the soft going but hopefully he can run a good race."
Ruler could have their measure
Godolphin's record pales besides Coolmore's, and Ibn Khaldun (2007) is their only winner, although Sheikh Mohammed was successful with Casamento in his own colours ten years ago.
They attempt to bridge the gap slightly today with One Ruler, a home-bred son of flagship stallion Dubawi who comfortably landed the Group 3 Autumn Stakes over a mile at Newmarket.
Ibn Khaldun won that race before coming to Doncaster and trainer Charlie Appleby is hopeful for One Ruler. He said: "We were obviously very pleased with One Ruler's win in the Autumn Stakes, when he handled the soft ground well and the step up to a mile suited.
"We're confident a repeat performance of his latest start is going to make him very competitive."
King Vega on a winning path
King Vega launched his career with second place in the Sandown maiden that Andrew Balding used for the debut of Elm Park and Kameko, who both took the Vertem Futurity in the last six years.
King Vega then matched Kameko's second in the Solario Stakes over the same course and distance and comes here among the highest-rated maidens in training, having missed another chance to break his duck when forced to miss the Royal Lodge by a slight niggle.
"I'm really pleased with the horse," Balding said on Sky Sports Racing. "We've always rated him really highly and he ran a very decent race in the Solario last time. The extra furlong will certainly be to his advantage. I don't think the ground conditions will be too much of a concern for him."
Reporting by David Carr
What the rest say
Roger Varian, trainer of Baradar
This will be a proper test against some decent colts and will tell us more about him. Conditions should be ideal for him. Ideally, I'd have liked to have been drawn better but he should still give a good account.
Clive Cox, trainer of Cobh
He's progressed with every run and I was very pleased with his third in the Royal Lodge. He showed he gets a mile well and appreciated a bit of cut.
John Gosden, trainer of Megallan
He got shuffled back in the Autumn Stakes last time and did well to finish where he did. He's stepping up in class and the Dewhurst form of some of the others looks strong, but he deserves to take his chance.
Additional reporting by David Carr
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