The final Group One race of the British Flat season, the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday, will be one horse away from a private sweepstake for Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stable after the trainer was responsible for 11 of the 12 runners left in the race at Monday’s five-day stage.

O’Brien is well known for making multiple entries in major races but has never dominated the field for a Group One contest so thoroughly. Kameko, from Andrew Balding’s stable in Hampshire, is the only possible runner from a British yard in the race.

O’Brien has won the Vertem Futurity, which was run for many years as the Racing Post Trophy, nine times and will equal Sir Henry Cecil’s record if he can saddle the winner for the third year running.

Four of his winners have gone on to take British Classics as three-year-olds, including Saxon Warrior (2017) and Magna Grecia (2018), both of whom landed the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket the following spring.

The trainer has an added incentive to win the race this year as he is just over £100,000 behind John Gosden in the race for the trainers’ championship, having made significant inroads into what had appeared to be an insurmountable lead for Gosden with two winners on Champions Day at Ascot last Saturday. With prize money down to sixth place, a clean sweep for O’Brien’s runners would be worth £200,000 and give him a realistic hope of retaining the title for the third year running.

With no certainty over the eventual make-up of O’Brien’s challenge, several bookmakers declined to price up the race on Monday. William Hill, though, installed Mogul, a full brother to this year’s International Stakes winner, Japan, as the hot favourite at 4-7, with Innisfree next at 4-1. Kameko is a 6-1 shot to keep the Ballydoyle posse at bay, ahead of Armory and Royal Dornoch on 8-1 and 10-1 respectively.

Hill also reopened betting on the trainers’ title, with Gosden priced up at 4-7 and O’Brien offered at 5-4.

“It’s a horse race,” David Redvers, the racing manager to Qatar Racing, which owns Kameko, said. “You have to take them on and it doesn’t matter who trains them. At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of horses running in a field.”

Roderick Duncan, the Doncaster clerk of the course, was baffled by the failure of so many of Britain’s top yards to offer any resistance to Ballydoyle.

“We’ve had no significant rain for six days, less than half a millimetre most of those days, so [the ground] has dried back a little bit,” he said. “I’m looking to see if the other horses [which were entered but not declared] ran recently or have other options, but it doesn’t appear they have. I’m lost for an explanation. Respect to Aidan. We’re always grateful for his support and on this occasion we’d be lost without them.”

Sam Cone, the spokesman for Arena Racing Company, which owns Doncaster, said it will study the entry process for the race following Saturday’s renewal. “We appreciate that the 2019 renewal offers a fairly unique situation,” he said, “but are hopeful it will once again offer the chance to uncover another star two-year-old to look out for in next year’s Classics.

“The team at Doncaster are focused on delivering two great days racing on Friday and Saturday but we will certainly consider the entry processes for the race in the wash-up from this year’s meeting.”

 

 

 

 

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