Saturday’s Racing Post Trophy (G1) at Doncaster marks the last race of 2017 on the “European Road to the Kentucky Derby,” with the three remaining points races all scheduled for next March.
The one-mile test has drawn the undefeated winners of the first two scoring races – Beresford (G2) hero Saxon Warrior and Royal Lodge (G2) victor Roaring Lion – each with 10 points in his account. The Racing Post Trophy offers points on the same 10-4-2-1 scale to the respective top four finishers.
You can wager on the race and watch it live at 10:25 a.m. (EDT) on TwinSpires.com.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Saxon Warrior is the clear-cut favorite, pegged at 9-5 on the North American morning line, after two convincing wins at this mile distance. Storming from far back under a hand ride first time out, he stalked the pace in the Beresford, where he stamped himself as the early favorite for the 2018 Epsom Derby (G1). Saxon Warrior was flattered when the fourth-placer in the Beresford, stablemate Kew Gardens, came back to win the Zetland at Newmarket.
But O’Brien has another hot prospect in the Racing Post Trophy who brings a good deal of firepower – The Pentagon. At 4-1, he represents better value than Saxon Warrior, and could be of a similar talent level. Although The Pentagon showed little in his debut on soft ground, finishing a remote sixth to Verbal Dexterity, that’s not atypical for an O’Brien newcomer.
The Pentagon took a leap forward second time out on good-to-firm ground, routing his opponents by 8 1/2 lengths. He wheeled back 12 days later in the Tyros (G3) at Leopardstown and kicked into gear late to win going away. That made him the early Epsom favorite until Saxon Warrior edged him at the head of the market.
The one question about The Pentagon is if he’ll bring his “A” game in this first start back from a three-month holiday. If so, he’s capable of upstaging Saxon Warrior.
Should O’Brien win the Racing Post Trophy, he’d break the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel’s record for most Group 1 wins in a calendar year. Both horsemen are tied with 25, and O’Brien is on the verge of scoring number 26.
The rival likeliest to thwart his record chase is Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity, the 7-2 second choice, who is a length away from a perfect mark. Last seen landing the Vincent O’Brien National (G1) at the Curragh, he would have been a major threat in the Dewhurst (G1). Unfortunately, he was under the weather and had to scratch from that October 14 contest.
Roaring Lion warrants respect for his three-for-three record for trainer John Gosden. Yet he was all out to beat Nelson, an O’Brien juvenile not as high in the pecking order as The Pentagon and Saxon Warrior, last time in the Royal Lodge. That implies he’ll need to step up to topple O’Brien’s bigger guns.
If you’re looking for a live longshot, Sir Michael Stoute sends out the intriguing Gabr. Sheikh Hamdan’s $400,617 yearling purchase is on the upgrade and eligible to outperform his 20-1 odds.
The top pick: I was so taken with The Pentagon that I’ll stick with him to spring the mild upset of Saxon Warrior.
For more details on the full field, check out the Brisnet.com preview of the Racing Post Trophy.
Saxon Warrior photo courtesy of Naas Racecourse via Twitter
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile is the next race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, you can bet on the Breeders' Cup action at TwinSpires.com.