Favored Magna Grecia just outdueled Phoenix of Spain – and then survived a stewards’ inquiry – to give trainer Aidan O’Brien his ninth win in Saturday’s Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1). Doncaster’s signature event for two-year-olds and a pointer to the classics, the Trophy serves as a points race on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Ridden by the trainer’s son, Donnacha, Magna Grecia was settled in midpack as stablemate Western Australia carved out the pace. Fellow O’Brien pupil Circus Maximus attended the leader and loomed to challenge on the stands’ side rail, but the biggest threats were emerging toward the center of the course. The gray Phoenix of Spain, who had been reserved well back in the field, worked his way into a contending position, as did Great Scot.
Magna Grecia had to muscle his way out of a pocket to find running room, and quickened smartly to join the fray. But in the process, he bumped Phoenix of Spain. Those two fought out the finish, with Magna Grecia thrusting his head in front at the wire.
The stewards reviewed the contact between Magna Grecia and Phoenix of Spain, but allowed the original order of finish to stand. The winner’s final time for the straight mile, on good-to-soft going, was 1:37.72.
Magna Grecia’s victory was worth 10 points on the European leaderboard, while Phoenix of Spain earned 4 points for his excellent runner-up effort. Pacemaker Western Australia boxed on for third at odds of 50-1, taking home 2 points, and Circus Maximus got 1 point for his close fourth.
Great Scot was only beaten about a length in fifth in the bunched-up finish. Next came Kick On; Turgenev, the 7-2 second choice who failed to fire; Dashing Willoughby; King Ottokar; Raakib Alhawa; and Kuwait Currency.
Magna Grecia, a 3 1/2-length debut winner at Naas, was coming off a near-miss in the Autumn S. (G3) at Newmarket. By Invincible Spirit and out of the Group 3-winning Galileo mare Cabaret, the $445,143 Tattersalls December weanling purchase races for the Coolmore partners and Flaxman Stables.