After the early entries were cleared out and the 5-day nominations were confirmed, it became apparent that 11 of the twelve potential runners for the £200,000 Vertem Futurity Stakes were trained by Aidan O’Brien, much to the chagrin of the racing public.
Doncaster’s Ownership Match Race
While it has been a source of amusement for some and it has led to some ribbing of British-based trainers, the fact that only Andrew Balding’s Kameko is on course to challenge Ballydoyle for the last remaining Group 1 race in the country is a case for some concern.
Should the Qatar Racing colt, an American-bred son of Kitten’s Joy, not be included in the final line-up we will see an unprecedented whitewash for the Coolmore team and even if this proves to be a one-off, it is a situation racing should never find itself in.
Naturally as the big training operations and big owners buy up more and more of the best stock at the sales, we are always liable to be in a position where some races are dominated by one or two teams.
In all fairness, given the successes this season in top level juvenile races of the likes of Newmarket’s Charlie Appleby, there is no reason to think that Irish-trained horses are to completely dominate these events but when considering this race along with the entries for the 2019 Derby, it opens up some room for debate.
Could We Move a Group 1 Race?
One social media commenter brought up the issue of the ground this week, something that was alluded to when a host of people suggested that Champions Day should be moved back to Newmarket instead of Ascot who for the third year in a row had to stage Britain’s richest race day on very soft ground indeed, blunting the performance of some of the country’s better thoroughbreds.
The suggestion via Twitter was that the Vertem Futurity, a one-mile Group 1 event formerly known as the Racing Post Trophy and a vital stepping stone for horses going onto the 2000 Guineas and/or the Derby, should be moved onto the well thought of Tapeta surface at Newcastle instead. Newcastle is of course under the same ownership as Doncaster, though frankly while the track is regarded as one of the best in the country its trackside facilities fall way short of being able to host a top Group 1 raceday.
This in turn should, one feels, lead to a bigger debate on when and where we run our Group 1 races.
There is a huge disparity in where these top-grade events are staged, with the south of the country hosting the vast majority. Taking York out of the equation, the Haydock Sprint Cup, St Leger and Futurity are the only Group 1 races staged in the north. The industry as a whole is talking a lot about getting new people involved in the sport, something achieved partly by moving races such as the Derby and the July Cup to Saturday slots to attract bigger TV audiences from their traditional midweek positions, but more must still be done.
Geography is not something that has been mentioned enough and surely, with the right facilities, having a Group 1 race as far north as Newcastle or even more pertinently in Scotland is perhaps the way to go.
The Futurity is a points-scoring race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, as is the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle at Easter, so perhaps a shift to Gosforth Park would encourage those training horses bred for the dirt to go for both events before branching out to the States for the big one at Churchill Downs?
A Group 1 race in Scotland would most likely have to take place during Ayr’s Gold Cup meeting in September and this too would be a welcome move. The meeting is Scotland’s premier flat event and features huge crowds during what is a public holiday, with its profile reaching new levels should something like the Sun Chariot be moved there. Unlikely perhaps, but food for thought nonetheless.