Also known as the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes, the Racing Post Trophy takes place at Doncaster on October. It is a significant race for two reasons. First of all, it is the final Group 1 race of the British Flat season. Secondly, horses that perform well in this one-mile race for 2yo colts and fillies often feature prominently in at least one of the Classics.
What Has Become of Previous Winners?
Although winning or finishing well in the Racing Post Trophy is not a guarantee for success, horses that perform well tend to be worth watching as 3yos. Last year’s winner, Saxon Warrior, went on to win this season’s 2,000 Guineas. The runner up, Roaring Lion, finished third in the Derby and has won four Group 1 races this season.
The 2016 winner, Rivet, did not enter any Classics the following season, although he did finish third in a Group 1 race in France. 2015 was a barren year as none of the horses went on to great things; although third placed Foundation, who was odds on favourite, placed in a couple of Group events as 3yo.
2013 winner, Kingston Hill, finished second in the following year’s Derby, while the runner up Johann Strauss finished fourth in the Irish 2,000 Guineas in 2014. The 2012 winner, Kingsbarns, finished third in the following year’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
Apart from Saxon Warrior, however, you have to go back to 2011 to finish a Racing Post Trophy winner who went on to win a Classic in the following year. It was, of course, Aidan O’Brien’s marvellous Camelot who performed the feat, with wins in the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby in 2012.
He was 8/13 favourite to win the Derby and did so in some style with a five-length victory. In fact, Camelot was an agonising three quarters of a length away from achieving the first British Triple Crown since Nijinsky in 1970. At Doncaster’s St. Leger Stakes, he was surprisingly beaten by 25/1 shot, Encke, as the 2/5 favourite.
Overall, five Racing Post Trophy winners have won the following year’s Epsom Derby since 1986 winner Reference Point. Now that we know that winners of this race are often ones to watch as 3yos let’s see if we can find a likely winner.
What Kind of Horse Wins the Racing Post Trophy?
At the time of writing, there were 49 potential runners. This is a problem because there are rarely more than 12 runners. In fact, there have been 9 or fewer runners in 13 of the last 21 races. Even so, I can use trends to narrow down the field, which should hopefully prove extremely helpful once the final line-up is announced. At present, there are no odds available, so we can discount any odds-related trends I include below for now.
- There have been no winners from stalls 7, 11, and 12, in the last two decades.
- 18/21 winners finished in the top three in their previous race, including 13 who also won their last race.
- 16/21 winners were in the top three in the betting market, including 13 favourites.
- 19/21 winners had between 1 and 4 runs that season.
- 21/21 winners did not run a race over a distance of more than a mile.
- 18/21 winners had at least one season win.
Given the importance placed on winning a race, it is easy to remove any horses yet to get off the mark. Unfortunately, only nine of the preliminary entries have failed to win a race! Next up, we remove those who did not finish in the top three in their previous race. By now, we are down to 23 possible contenders, which is still an enormous number. It makes sense to get rid of horses with five or more runs this season because such entries historically fail to win. Alas, that only reduces the field to 20 runners.
At this stage, it becomes difficult to analyse the field any further. For example, slightly over half of the previous 12 winners were previous Group race winners. It is a good idea to focus on horses with a win over a mile, preferably on Turf. One example is a preliminary entry, Circus Maximus, who won a mile race on Heavy going at Gowran Park.
One other point worth mentioning is that Aidan O’Brien has been the dominant trainer in recent years. He has eight winners since 1997, although Saxon Warrior last year was his first since 2012. His horses make up almost half of the preliminary field so he will probably have three or four runners on the day at the very least.
Although it is not always a guarantee of future success, the winner of the Racing Post Trophy is, at the very least, a horse to watch the following season. It is worth noting that only three of the last 12 winners went on to win their next race, and only one other winner in that group went on to even place!
This is perhaps because of the huge difference between running as a top 2yo and taking on world-class 3yos in the following season. Another reason is that 7 of the last 12 winners had the 2,000 Guineas as their next race; not exactly an easy introduction into life as a 3yo runner! Horses such as Camelot, Reference Point, High Chaparral, Saxon Warrior, and Motivator, all went on to bigger and better things in the form of a Classic win; all but Saxon Warrior won the Derby.
As the race is on in late October, there is every chance that the race will take place on testing ground. Indeed, at the time of writing, the Going has been described as ‘Soft,’ and that is unlikely to change. As a result, the race is likely to become a test of stamina as much as speed. It is wise to take this into account when trying to find a winner.