May 29, 2023

Kameko much the best in Vertem Futurity Trophy

European Road to the Kentucky Derby

A change in venue and surface made no difference to Kameko, who upended a Coolmore-owned juggernaut in Friday’s Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) at Newcastle, England, a 2020 European Road to the Kentucky Derby prep.

Originally scheduled for last Saturday over a flat mile on the turf at Doncaster, the Trophy was postponed due to a waterlogged course. Newcastle, which shares a common ownership with Doncaster, was chosen as the substitute venue for the rescheduled one-mile event.

While the race was still contested over a straightaway, Newcastle’s main flat surface is the Tapeta all-weather variety. The Trophy was thus the first Group 1 event ever contested on an all-weather surface in the United Kingdom.

Kameko, owned by Qatar Racing and trained by Andrew Balding, was the only non Coolmore-owned entry originally scheduled to run in the race last Saturday. The re-opening of Trophy entries earlier this week attracted a more diversely-owned field of 11, but Kameko nonetheless proved the thorn in the side of the Aidan O’Brien-trained quartet that started.

Sent off at 5-1 in the U.S. and a similar 11-2 overseas, Kameko proved an impressive winner by 3 1/4 lengths under Oisin Murphy. The final time was 1:36.26. He paid $13 in U.S. pools. Innisfree edged fellow Coolmore yardmates Year of the Tiger and Mogul for second. Kinross, the favorite, finished fifth.

Kameko, a narrowly beaten second in both the Solario (G3) at Sandown and Royal Lodge (G2) at Newmarket in his prior two starts, earned 10 qualifying points in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby series. He has 14 points in total having earned four for his second in the Royal Lodge.

Innisfree also has 14 points having captured the Beresford (G2) at The Curragh prior to his second in the Trophy. Year of the Tiger earned two pints here and has three points in total, while Mogul earned one point for fourth.

Kameko is my Kitten’s Joy and out of Grade 3 winner Sweeter Still, a Rock of Gibraltar half-sister to Kingsbarns, who won the 2012 edition of the Trophy at Doncaster.

The European Road to the Kentucky Derby series picks back up on March 4 with qualifying races at Kempton Park in England and Dundalk in Ireland. The final race in the series will be April 9 at Chelmsford in England.