October Meeting – Vertem Futurity Trophy

 The October Trophy at Doncaster Racecourse, in South Yorkshire, was inaugurated, as the Timeform Gold Cup, in 1961 and, for sponsorship purposes, has been run under various titles – Observer Gold Cup, William Hill Futurity Stakes and Racing Post Trophy Stakes – over the years. The latest title sponsor is independent stockbroker Vertem Asset Management so, starting in 2018, the race will be run as the Vertem Futurity Trophy.

In any event, the race, which is run over a mile and open to two-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies, has been a Group 1 contest since the introduction of the European Pattern system in 1971. It is, in fact, the final Group 1 of the season and is staged annually in October on the second day of a two-day fixture on Town Moor.

Despite the assertion of the late Phil Bull, founder of Timeform, that the race is not “something to provide resourceless and thought lazy journalists with guidance as to what might win next year’s Classic races”, the Vertem Futurity Stakes has become a recognised trial for the Derby. Five winners – Reference Point (1986), High Chaparral (2001), Motivator (2004), Authorized (2006) and Camelot (2011) – have gone on to win the Epsom Classic the following season. The late Sir Henry Cecil, trainer of Reference Point, saddled ten winners of the Vertem Futurity Trophy between 1969 and 1993 and remains the most successful trainer in the history of the race.

Future Champions Festival

 The Future Champions Festival is the highlight of the so-called Gold Season, which is the term used by the Jockey Club to describe the late summer and autumn programme of horse racing on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket, Suffolk, in the East of England. The two-day meeting, which is staged annually in October, is sponsored by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and, under the terms of the sponsorship deal, is officially known as the Dubai Future Champions Festival.

As the name suggests, the Dubai Future Champions Festival combines races of the highest class for promising young horses, including Group 1 feature races on each day, with a selection that are open to their older counterparts.

The highlight of the opening day, a.k.a. “Autumn Ladies Day”, is the Group 1 bet365 Fillies’ Mile, which offers £500,000 in prize money and is, in fact, the most valuable race for two-year-old fillies’ in Europe. The Fillies’ Mile was inaugurated in 1973, at Ascot, where it was run under various names, for sponsorship purposes, before being transferred to Newmarket, as the Shadwell Fillies’ Mile, in 2011. The race was awarded Group 3 status in 1975, elevated to Group 2 status in 1986 and finally achieved Group 1 status in 1990.

Similarly, the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes, run over 7 furlongs and open to two-year-old colts and fillies, is the feature race on the second day. The outcome of the prestigious race, which also offers £500,000 in total prize money, making it the most valuable race of its kind in Europe, jointly with the bet365 Fillies’ Mile, usually has a bearing on the betting for the One Thousand Guineas and/or the Two Thousand Guineas, back on the Rowley Mile the following spring.

Nowadays, the second day of the Dubai Future Champions Festival also includes the second leg of the traditional “Autumn Double”, the Cesarewitch, an historic ‘heritage’ handicap run over 2 miles 2 furlongs and open to horses aged three years and upwards. In 2018, the total prize money for the Cesarewitch doubled, to £500,000, with plans for further increases, to £750,000 in 2019 and £1 million in 2020.

Cambridgeshire Meeting

 The Cambridgeshire Meeting is staged on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday in late September on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket, on the Suffolk-Cambridgeshire border, and culminates with the Cambridgeshire Heritage Handicap on the final day. The Cambridgeshire was inaugurated in 1839, the same year as the Cesarewitch, which is run over 2 miles 2 furlongs on the Cesarewitch Course at Newmarket two weeks later, and together they constitute the traditional “Autumn Double”. Nowadays, horses rarely, if ever, contest both races.

The Rowley Mile is an exceedingly wide, galloping course with a safety limit of 35 which, combined with the specialist distance of 1 mile 1 furlong and the typical assortment of entries, makes the Cambridgeshire a fiendishly difficult race to unravel. Three favourites have won the Cambridgeshire since the turn of the twenty-first century, but winners at 100/1, 50/1, 40/1, 33/1 and 25/1 in the same period provide an indication of the onerous task faced by punters.

Of course, the Cambridgeshire, climatic though it is, is just one of 22 races – not including the Shetland Pony Grand National Team Flat Race – run over the three days of the Cambridgeshire Meeting. The Thursday features the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes, an informative contest for juvenile colts and geldings, run over 7 furlongs, closely followed by the Listed Jockey Club Rose Bowl, open to horses aged three years and upwards, over 2 miles. The latter is a fairly recent addition to the Newmarket programme, having been run as the Fenwolf Stakes, at Ascot, until 2011.

Two Group 2 races, the Rockfel Stakes, over 7 furlongs for juvenile fillies, and the Joel Stakes, over a mile for three-year-olds and older horses, dominate proceedings on the Friday, while the Cheveley Park Stakes, for juvenile fillies, and the Middle Park Stakes, for juvenile colts, both run over 6 furlongs, are keenly anticipated Group 1 contests on the Saturday.

Ayr Gold Cup

 Formerly the Western Meeting, the Ayr Gold Cup Festival is staged annually at Ayr Racecourse, in south-west Scotland, on the shores of the Firth of Clyde, in September. It is, in fact, the most valuable Flat racing meeting staged in Scotland and takes its name from the feature race, which is run on the third, and final, day.

The Ayr Gold Cup, run over 6 furlongs, was first staged in its current guise in 1908 and, nowadays, is one of the major sprint handicaps in Europe. Unsurprisingly, the race regularly attracts numerous high-quality entries from both sides of the Irish Sea, but the safety limit at Ayr is just 25. Consequently, the Ayr Gold Cup is always vastly oversubscribed, so much so that entries for the race are accepted on the understanding that, at the 48-hour declaration stage, connections may nominate their horse(s) for entry to the primary consolation race, the Ayr Silver Cup, or the secondary consolation race, the Ayr Bronze Cup.

The Ayr Bronze Cup, which was inaugurated in 2009, takes place on the middle day of the three-day Festival, a.k.a. Ladies Day, while the Ayr Silver Cup, which was inaugurated in 1992, takes place on the final day, as a precursor to the Ayr Gold Cup itself. Fittingly, the total prize money on offer increases, incrementally, from £30,000 for the Ayr Bronze Cup to £60,000 for the Ayr Silver Cup to £200,000 for the Ayr Gold Cup.

Of course, the Ayr Gold Cup Festival is not just about major sprint handicaps. The highlight of the opening day is the Doonside Cup, a Listed contest run over 1 mile 2 furlongs and worth £65,000 in total prize money. Between the Ayr Silver Cup and the Ayr Gold Cup, the Firth of Clyde Stakes, which was elevated to Group 3 status in 2004 and is the only Pattern race run in Scotland, is also run on the straight 6-furlong course, but is restricted to two-year-old fillies only.