The 2019-20 European Road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Friday with the Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) at Newcastle in England.
Originally scheduled for last Saturday over the turf at Doncaster, the race was postponed due to wet conditions and subsequently transferred to the synthetic Tapeta track at Newcastle.
The result promises to be a more competitive race, with the number of entries doubling from six last week to an even dozen at Newcastle.
Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien will throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Vertem Futurity Trophy, sending out five starters. Leading this multi-pronged attack is Mogul, a son of acclaimed stallion Galileo. After finishing second on debut, Mogul came back to break his maiden at the Curragh and score a promising victory in the KPMG Champions Juvenile (G2) at Leopardstown.
Innisfree is also a group stakes winner, having earned 10 Kentucky Derby qualification points via his gutsy victory over a heavy track in the Beresford (G2) at the Curragh. Year of the Tiger, who defeated Innisfree in a maiden race at Naas during the summer, will seek to improve upon his fourth-place finish in the Dewhurst (G1) at Newmarket three weeks ago, while Royal County Dawn—fourth in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes—will likewise seek better luck while switching to Tapeta. Newmarket maiden winner New World Tapestry completes the O’Brien contingent.
The Irish firepower will be tough to deny, though Kameko figures to give it a good go for trainer Andrew Balding. A promising son of Kitten’s Joy, Kameko came out on the losing end of close battles in the Solario (G3) and Royal Lodge (G2), but has shown flashes of serious talent and might appreciate the switch to Tapeta. The progeny of Kitten’s Joy have fared well on synthetic tracks in the past.
Along similar lines, Futurity (G2) third-place finisher Geometrical has proven to be a cut below the best European juveniles on grass, but the switch in racing surfaces could be an equalizer. And what to make of the wildcard Kinross, who steps up sharply in class off a spectacular eight-length debut win at Newmarket? Trained by Ralph Beckett, this son of Kingman threw down a 101 Racing Post Rating and could be any kind.
Tammani and Cherokee Trail have both won multiple races, but they’ve come up short in their group stakes performances and will hope for improved performances on Tapeta. Completing the field are Verboten, a debut winner conditioned by John Gosden, and King of the Throne, a 0-for-2 maiden beaten nine lengths by Mogul on debut.
The Vertem Futurity Trophy is the fifth race of the day at Newcastle, with a projected post time of 2:00 p.m. (EDT).