The UK Flat season does not come to a close until after the November Handicap, but it takes a big step towards winding down today with the last Group One of the season.
A race for two-year-olds, the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (3.15 Doncaster) is not always the easiest to figure out and, quite often, the participants have only had one or two runs.
That happens to be the case with
Luxembourg which has raced just twice, but from what we’ve seen so far, the Aidan O’Brien (right) colt is well capable of taking a race like this and his short price of 10/11 is justified.
A son of 2011 winner Camelot, Luxembourg kicked off his career with a win in a maiden at Killarney in July where he looked a bit green – but you could see the raw talent.
He followed that up with a far more polished victory in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh, having stepped up in class to Group Two level. He travelled easily on that occasion and showed a lovely turn of foot to kick on, having stayed at the back for most of the race.
The bookmakers metaphorically wiped down the chalkboards after that success and he’s now 12/1 for the 2022 Guineas, and 8/1 for the Derby.
Mark Johnston’s Royal Patronage is the biggest danger and was available at 4/1 yesterday evening. He’s one of the more experienced horses in the field having raced five times, most recently completing a hat-trick, including a Group Two last time out.
He snatched victory from Coroebus on the line in that latest race and was a little lucky, but Coroebus has since gone on to win a Group Three so it looks a decent piece of form.
We’ve another two-year-old race at Newbury, where Noble Truth should prove hard to beat at 11/10 in the Group Three Virgin Bet Horris Hill Stakes (2.0) under James Doyle.
Charlie Appleby’s colt won a Listed race at Doncaster in September, and connections took a chance earlier this month by throwing him into the deep end for the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp. He wasn’t disgraced in second place and that top-level experience will stand to him now when back down in class.
The Appleby and Doyle team are also tipped in the Group Three Virgin Bet St Simon Stakes (2.35 Newbury), where Siskany looks nailed-on and is expected to go off around 6/5.
A winner of four of his seven races, this three-year-old gelding continues to improve and managed to win a decent handicap when rated 100 at Newmarket last time out. Despite racing a little sloppy early on, he kicked on nicely when it mattered.
The one I’m most worried about is Max Vega, which won a couple of races early on in his career but has been a little unlucky in some races lately – although he’s starting to run out of excuses and needs to put things right soon to prove he’s still a Group-level horse.
With the Flat season nearing the end, the jumps calendar becomes busier from here on in and we’ve a couple of interesting handicaps at Cheltenham to get stuck into.
Priced around 9/2 yesterday evening, Storm Control gets the nod for Kerry Lee under Richard Patrick in the 888sport What’s Your Thinking Handicap Chase (2.20).
A two-time winner at the course including a Grade Three Handicap, he finished mid-division when last seen in the Topham Chase at Aintree when rated 140. I don’t think that race brought out the best in him, and now down to 137 from which he won that Grade Three, he’s sure to go close provided he’s fit and well after a 197-day break.
That said, he won’t have it all his own way and there’s others with claims including the top weight Cloth Cap, which was pulled up in the Grand National but had previously won a Listed chase at Kelso. He’s trading at 6/1 early doors and races in the colours of Trevor Hemmings, who sadly died recently at the age of 86.
In the nine-runner 888sport Handicap Chase (3.30), I’m quite keen on Philip Hobbs’ Leapaway at 6/1 or thereabouts under Tom O’Brien, who steered him to victory last month in a handicap chase at Worcester when rated 132.
The handicapper has raised him 3lbs for that but he was staying on nicely when crossing the line, and I reckon he’s got a slight bit of wriggle room for improvement.