Wednesday 16 January 2019

Futurity looking bright for O'Brien team effort

Donnacha O’Brien and Magna Grecia (left) win the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster. Photo: Getty Images
Donnacha O’Brien and Magna Grecia (left) win the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster. Photo: Getty Images

Keith Hamer

Magna Grecia demonstrated a determined attitude as he gave Aidan O'Brien a ninth win in the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster. Narrowly defeated in the Autumn Stakes by Andre Fabre's Persian King last time out, he stayed on best of all to narrowly deny Charlie Hills' Phoenix Of Spain. Donnacha O’Brien and Magna Grecia (left) win the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster

Stablemates Western Australia and Circus Maximus ensured the race was run at a solid gallop, but it was Donnacha O'Brien's mount who just prevailed by a head as the 2/1 favourite.

"I'm delighted with him, he's still a bit babyish but he's coming forward lovely," said O'Brien. Set to be crowned Irish champion jockey, Donnacha O'Brien has also won the Oaks, 2000 Guineas and Irish Derby among a host of big-race successes this term.

A stewards' inquiry was called as there appeared to be contact between the first two, initially when Magna Grecia moved out from behind his stable companions to make his challenge and then just before the line, but there was no change to the result.

Jim Bolger's Guaranteed set the standard before thetote.com Eyrefield Stakes at Leopardstown and so it proved in the race as he gamely landed the Group Three heat.

Second last week to O'Brien's Coral Beach in the Killavullen Stakes, he was sent off a 9/2 chance in the hands of Kevin Manning, who took up a nice position on the rails. In contrast, 13/8 favourite Masaff had to come wide on the bend and while he stuck to his task, Guaranteed held a half-length advantage at the line.

It brought up a double for Bolger and Manning, who also won the thetote.com Knockaire Stakes with Smash Williams. "We haven't had a day like this for a little while," said Bolger. "I loved him the last day and my only concern was going back so soon again. We'll make it up to him over the winter."

John McConnell showed he is capable of mixing it with the big boys after his well devised plan for Pearl Of The West came to fruition in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Having come up short in a Grade Three at Tipperary last time out, the four-year-old daughter of Teofilo never missed a beat in front in the extended two-mile prize, coming home a decisive three-and-a-quarter-length winner from last season's Triumph Hurdle sixth Redicean.

McConnell, celebrating his first winner at the track, said: "I'm delighted for the filly as she has been running consistently all year. I thought we would have a go at the big boys and she did us proud."

Meanwhile, Emma Lavelle is hoping Javert can cope with a step up in class after a comeback victory following a lengthy lay-off in the Monet's Garden Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase at Aintree today.

The eight-year-old had been off the track for 869 days before returning in triumph at Uttoxeter five weeks ago. Lavelle had planned to wait for the BetVictorGold Cup at Cheltenham on November 17, but Javert has been in such tremendous form since then that she has been persuaded to run him in this Listed contest first.

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